First images from the Sun’s edge reveal origins of Solar wind

By AG Staff Writer / NASA 2 September 2016
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NASA scientists have for the first time imaged the edge of the Sun, enabling them to describe the mysterious origins of Solar wind.

WHEN SOLAR WIND – the constant flow of charged particles from the Sun – approaches Earth, it is gusty and turbulent. But near the Sun where it originates, the wind is structured in distinct rays, “much like a child’s simple drawing of the Sun,” as NASA explained in a release today.

What has remained mysterious is the transition from these defined rays in the Sun’s upper atmosphere (the corona) to the Solar wind – understanding which could help us learn more about our Solar neighbourhood, which is necessary for safely exploring beyond our own planet.

Now, using NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO, launched in 2006) scientists have for the first time imaged the edge of the Sun (pictured, above) and described the transition, with findings published in The Astrophysical Journal yesterday.

“Now we have a global picture of Solar wind evolution,” said Nicholeen Viall, a co-author of the paper and a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is really going to change our understanding of how the space environment develops.”

To capture the incredible images, scientists had to separate the faint features of the Solar wind from the dust, stray sunlight and bright background stars. “In a way, these images were hiding in plain sight,” said the NASA statement.

Watch this short NASA video for more about the findings:

Source: NASA