Scientists released four new papers in the journal Nature this week, outlining new discoveries from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which has come closer to our parent star than any previous spacecraft. This new NASA video – released November 24, 2019 – explains why we should care. It describes the solar wind, the stream of particles that begins in the sun’s inner atmosphere and continues out beyond our solar system.
Here on Earth’s surface, we’re protected from the solar wind by our blanket of atmosphere. In fact, earthly skywatchers look forward to announcements of storms on the sun, which send the solar wind outward. They can set off geomagnetic storms that lead to beautiful displays of auroras, or northern lights, typically seen at high latitudes and somtimes, if the solar wind is strong enough, extending down into lower latitudes.
But these same solar storms can also disrupt orbiting satellites (they can be the reason we all have mobile phone issues on the same day). They’ve been known to cause earthly power grids to fail, causing blackouts. And they’re a danger to our astronauts in space.
How strong is the solar wind? The wind speed of a Category 5 hurricane can top at well over 150 miles (240 km) per hour. The average speed of the solar wind is almost a million miles (1.6 million km) per hour.
Watch the video to learn more.
Bottom line: NASA video on the solar wind and how it affects Earth.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.