The Parker Solar Probe may have spotted the origin of high-speed solar winds

Wednesday, June 7, 2023 - 10:53 in Astronomy & Space

A spacecraft plunging into the sun’s atmosphere has revealed the likely source of powerful blasts of plasma in fast solar winds. Far from the sun, the solar wind is a nebulous, turbulent plasma. But when NASA’s Parker Solar Probe dipped within about 8 million kilometers of the sun’s surface, it detected narrow plasma streams (SN: 12/15/21). The streams appear to be guided by magnetic fields tracing back to two relatively cool regions of the sun’s atmosphere known as coronal holes, researchers report June 7 in Nature. The solar wind — the steady stream of charged particles flowing from the sun — has two distinct speeds, dubbed as “slow” and “fast.” Until now, it wasn’t clear what was speeding the fast solar wind along. The plasma in most of the solar wind consists of protons, electrons and the nuclei of atoms blowing at hundreds of kilometers a second. But plasma from the area...

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