Fourth Industrial Revolution

Imagine a child’s drawing of the sun. NASA shows you're not far off reality

The sun rises as fog covers the Inntal valley in the western Austrian village of Grinzens, Austria September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler  - RTX2NV1M

NASA imaging has captured the moment solar winds are formed Image: REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler

Emma Luxton
Senior Writer , Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Space is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Space

Imagine a child’s drawing of the sun. A round yellow ball with straight rays of light beaming outwards. It turns out this depiction could be more accurate than you thought.

The discovery of solar wind – the constant flow of charged particles from the sun – was made in the 1950s. These flows originate near the sun and are structured in distinct rays, emanating outwards, until they reach the edge of the sun’s upper atmosphere. And this is where they change: the particles transitioning from straight, distinct rays into a gusty and turbulent solar wind as it approaches the Earth.

Scientists have never understood the details of this transition, until now. NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) has allowed scientists to create an image of the edge of the sun where the transition occurs.

Loading...

The findings, published in the Astrophysical Journal, can help scientists learn more about our solar system and the space environment we exist in.

“Now we have a global picture of solar wind evolution,” said Nicholeen Viall, a co-author of the paper and a solar scientist. “This is really going to change our understanding of how the space environment develops.”

Have you read?

How does it work?

The sun and its atmosphere are made up of plasma, a mixture of positively and negatively charged particles that have separated at extremely high temperatures and that travel along magnetic field lines.

This plasma streams out from the sun’s outer atmosphere and fills the solar system, but it changes as it moves farther away from the sun.

Craig DeForest, lead author of the study and a solar physicist, noted that the magnetic field strength drops faster than the pressure of the material the further it is from the sun.

“Eventually, the material starts to act more like a gas, and less like a magnetically structured plasma,” DeForest wrote.

Scientists had previously believed that magnetic forces were dominant at the corona’s edge, and this research has shown them to be correct.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

In a world of deepfakes, we must build a case for trustworthy synthetic AI content

Beena Ammanath

May 30, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum