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Hinode: new insights on the origin of solar wind
Date:12/7/2007

Spectacular images and data from the Hinode mission have shed new light on the Sun's magnetic field and the origins of solar wind, which can disrupt power grids, satellites and communications on Earth.

The results are published in the 7 December issue of the journal Science.

Data from Hinode, a Japanese (JAXA) mission with ESA participation, shows that magnetic waves play a critical role in driving the solar wind into space. The solar wind is a stream of electrically charged gas that is propelled away from the Sun in all directions at speeds of almost 1.5 million km/h. Better understanding of the solar wind may lead to more accurate prediction of damaging radiation waves before they reach satellites.

How the solar wind is formed and powered has been the subject of debate for decades. Powerful magnetic waves in the electrically charged gas near the Sun (called Alfvn waves) have always been a leading-candidate force in the formation of solar wind. In principle, such waves can transfer energy from the Sun's surface up through its atmosphere, or corona, into the solar wind.

In the solar atmosphere, Alfvn waves are created when convective motions and sound waves push magnetic fields around, or when dynamic processes create electrical currents that allow the magnetic fields to change shape or reconnect.

"Until now, Alfvn waves have been impossible to observe because of limited resolution of available instruments," said Alexei Pevtsov, Hinode program scientist, at NASA Headquarters, Washington, USA. "With the help of Hinode, we are now able to see direct evidence of Alfvn waves, which will help us unravel the mystery of how the solar wind is powered."

Using Hinode's high resolution X-ray telescope, a team led by Jonathan Cirtain, a solar physicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama, USA, was able to peer low into the corona at the Sun's poles and observe record numbers of X-ray jets. The jets are fount
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Contact: Bernhard Fleck
bfleck@esa.nascom.nasa.gov
301-286-4098
European Space Agency  
Source:Eurekalert

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