Almost everyone is familiar with the concept of wind on Earth, but the term solar wind can be confusing at first. Basically, solar wind is a constant stream of charged particles that is released from the upper atmosphere of the sun. Solar wind is responsible for the magnificent northern and southern lights (auroras) and the tails on comets. Solar wind can be dangerous to life, but fortunately the Earth is protected from solar wind by its magnetic field. Let’s take a look at solar wind in greater detail.
What is solar wind?
We now know that solar wind is particles released from the sun. These particles are mostly electrons and protons. The particles are released from the upper atmosphere, called the corona, of the sun. This part of the sun is extremely hot, about 1 million °C (1.8 million °F). These high temperatures cause the particles to become charged. The particles are in a state called plasma, similar to a gas, and in certain cases they can escape the corona of the sun.
There are two known types of solar wind called slow solar wind and fast solar wind. Slow solar wind is believed to come from the equatorial belt of the sun. The fast solar wind is believed to come from holes in the Sun’s corona caused by the magnetic field lines that have pierced the Sun’s surface.