Astronomy Picture of the Day

A Jet from the Sun

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A Jet from the Sun

What powers the solar wind?

Our Sun is known to emit a powerful
wind of particles with gusts that can even
affect astronauts and satellites
orbiting Earth.

The cause of the
solar wind
has been debated for decades but is thought to be rooted in
Alfvén waves
generated by the ever changing
magnetic field of the Sun.

Newly released images
from the Japanese
Hinode satellite appear to bolster this hypothesis, imaging an average of 240 daily
plasma jets
that are excellent candidates to fuel the outwardly moving
Alfvén waves.

The jets and waves are themselves ultimately created by
magnetic reconnection
events, rapid events where lines of constant
magnetic field
suddenly move extremely rapidly, dragging
electrons and
protons along with them.

On the image left, one such jet is visible in
X-ray light.

Bright spots show relatively energetic regions
elsewhere on the Sun.

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