Sunday, August 1, 2021

Understanding the Solar Wind in Our Solar System (Infographic)

The Sun releases a constant stream of particles and magnetic fields called the solar wind.  This solar wind strikes worlds across the solar system with particles and radiation - which can spread to planetary surfaces unless countered by an atmosphere, a magnetic field, or both.  See how these solar particles interact with selected planets and other celestial bodies.

 Earth

 The solar wind is mainly deflected by our magnetic field, but sometimes, when intense, some of it can leak.  Once in space near Earth, particles can trigger aurora near the poles.

 Earth moon

 Because its atmosphere is very thin, the solar wind hits the Moon's surface directly, with only a little deflection by tiny magnetic field bubbles scattered across the surface.  This bombardment deposits ingredients that can produce water.

 asteroids

 An asteroid has no inherent protection around it, so the solar wind can easily reach its surface.  Incoming particles sometimes hurl material into space, changing the fundamental chemistry of what is left in the ground.

 comets

 Comets have a kind of atmosphere called a coma.  It is created as the comet's frozen ice is turned to gas by the sun's heat.  Some of these gas particles get charged with intense sunlight.  When this happens, they move in tandem with the magnetized solar wind, forming what we see as the comet's ion tail.

 Mars

 When the solar wind collides with Mars' atmosphere, all that energy creates a layer of electrified particles called the ionopause, which in turn also helps protect the surface from the solar wind.

 Jupiter

 Jupiter's magnetic field is similar to Earth's, but much, much larger.  This magnetic field creates a bubble that directs the solar wind to circle around the planet. 

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