Living with a Star


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Solar Flare

Gale Force Winds

For a long time, people thought space was a big, dark void, dotted only with planets, stars, comets and asteroids. Today, we know there's more out there, like invisible magnetic fields and fast-moving charged particles.

Remember: Space is Not Empty!

Solar Winds DiagramThe vast space between the Sun and planets is filled with the Solar Wind, blowing ever outward from our star. The solar wind is a continuous stream of ionized gas, or plasma that pours out of the Sun at 200 tons per second and a million miles per hour. This thin plasma rushes through space, pulling the Sun’s invisible magnetic field along with it. As the Sun spins, or rotates, this interplanetary magnetic field takes on a spiral shape, like water coming out of a spinning sprinkler.

Wrath of Ra Wrath of Ra
Try to hit Earth by launching particles off the Sun. If you hit Earth, you may cause an aurora!


Solar Cycle MontageScientists aren’t exactly sure how the wind escapes the Sun’s powerful gravity. They suspect that the wind may leave through holes in the Sun’s Corona. The holes are cooler, and have a looser magnetic configuration that could make escape easier. In this X-ray photograph of the Sun, the dark areas are large coronal holes. The bright areas are called “active regions” and are intense sources of X-rays. Active regions trap heated plasmas and are associated with Sunspots.