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Young Voices for the Planet DVD in our online store includes 8 films where students speak out and take action on climate change.
The sun flings out solar wind particles in much the same manner as a garden sprinkler throws out water droplets.
The artist's drawing of the solar wind flow was provided courtesy of NASA.

The Spiral of the IMF

The solar wind is formed as the Sun's top layer blows off into space. It carries magnetic fields still attached to the Sun.

Streams appear to flow into space as if they are spiraling out from the Sun, as shown in this figure. This is called the "spiral angle" of the IMF (interplanetary magnetic field).

Planets have to be in a stream's path to be affected.

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The Magnetic Field

The force of magnetism causes material to point along the direction the magnetic force points. Here's another picture of how this works. This picture shows where the magnetic poles of the Earth are to...more

Spiral Path of Material

For a planet to be affected by a blob of material being ejected by the sun, the planet must be in the path of the blob, as shown in this picture. The Earth and its magnetosphere are shown in the bottom...more

AU

AU stands for Astronomical Units. It is an easy way to measure large distances in space. It is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is about 93 million miles. For really big distances, we...more

The Spiral of the IMF

The solar wind is formed as the Sun's top layer blows off into space. It carries magnetic fields still attached to the Sun. Streams appear to flow into space as if they are spiraling out from the Sun,...more

The SAR Arc

If someone says they saw an aurora, you might picture something like this. There is another type of aurora that we can't see. These aurora are called SAR arcs. The SAR stands for Stable Auroral Red. That...more

The Effect of Aurora on the Atmosphere

This figure shows the effect of the aurora on the atmosphere. When FAC's enter the atmosphere and create the aurora, they heat the atmosphere suddenly and abruptly. This creates an impulse which travels...more

The forming Aurora

This picture shows the flowing of particles into and out of the auroral zone, as Field-Aligned currents (FAC's) take at short-cut through the atmosphere. Some of the particles entering the auroral zone...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF