New Study Identifies Mechanism Driving the Sun’s Fast Wind

The fastest winds ever recorded on Earth reached more than 200 miles per hour, but even those gusts pale in comparison to the sun’s wind.

In a paper published June 7, 2023 in the journal Nature, a team of researchers used data from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to explain how the solar wind is capable of surpassing speeds of 1 million miles per hour. They discovered that the energy released from the magnetic field near the sun’s surface is powerful enough to drive the fast solar wind, which is made up of ionized particles—called plasma—that flow outward from the sun.

James Drake, a Distinguished University Professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Physics and Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST), co-led this research alongside first author Stuart Bale of UC Berkeley. Drake said scientists have been trying to understand solar wind drivers since the 1950s—and with the world more interconnected than ever, the implications for Earth are significant.

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