Solar System Chatter

Solar Blast Waves and Turbulent Wind

Scientists have been getting a lot of work out of NASA’s STEREO solar observatory lately. A team of heliophysicists at the Southwest Research Institute used data from the spacecraft to determine that solar wind flowing through space doesn’t move in a straight line, but “with gusting turbulence and swirling vortices.” This movement can explain some otherwise unexplained phenomena, like why solar wind is about 70 times hotter when it reaches Earth than one would predict based on the temperature of the sun’s corona. Meanwhile, two teams independently discovered large waves in the solar atmosphere that are accompanied with particles rich in helium-3. The teams from Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center and the Max Planck Institute for Solar Research used data taken in 2010 from STEREO A and ACE, which were positioned in just the right place at the right time, over the right limb of the sun to see the particles as they travel off the sun in the extreme ultraviolet blast wave. STEREO, if it survives that long, won’t be in position to make another similar observation until 2025.

Heather Goss is the Departments Editor at Air & Space.

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