• Question: What are solar winds? Why don't they affect the earth or do they?

    Asked by Zobo64 to Colin, John, Kevin, Shikha, Triona on 14 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Colin Johnston

      Colin Johnston answered on 14 Nov 2014:

      The solar wind is a stream of particles, mainly protons and electrons, blowing from the upper atmosphere of the Sun. It’s hot (nearly a million C) but very, very thin. The solar wind doesn’t reach Earth’s surface, our planet’s magnetic field deflects most of the particles in the wind; some of them are trapped in the Van Allen radiation belts, these are big doughnut shaped rings around the Earth.

      The only time the solar wind is observable on the Earth is when it is strong enough to cause an aurora which is a fantastic sight!

    • Photo: Shikha Sharma

      Shikha Sharma answered on 15 Nov 2014:

      Hi Zobo64,

      Sometimes clouds of high energy particles are released by Sun from its surface. These are mostly electron and protons. They escape Sun’s gravitation due to their high energy. These clouds travel through high speed and reach near earth in 3 to 4 days. These are known as solar winds.
      Solar wind first hit earth’s magnetic field. Earth’s magnetic field largely shift path of the solar winds particles sideways so that they can’t enter into earth’s atmosphere. However, few particles of solar winds break the magnetic field of the earth particularly and more frequently near to north and south poles and reaches very close to earth surface and create significant impact in manmade electrical and magnetic grid causing radio and television static, power blackouts, navigation problems for ships and airplanes with magnetic compasses, and damage to satellites and spacecraft etc.

    • Photo: Kevin Motherway

      Kevin Motherway answered on 19 Nov 2014:

      The solar wind is a stream of plasma released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun. It consists of mostly electrons and protons. These particles can escape the Sun’s gravity because of their high energy. The solar wind takes about 4 days to get to us and thankfully these high energy particles are deflected by our magnetic field. Every so often the magnetic field twangs back and produces aurora as a way of releasing the pent up energy from the particles. The solar wind impacts on the surface of the moon meaning the surface of the moon is covered in Helium 3 deposited from the solar wind. This could be mined in the future as fuel for fusion reactors!