Café Scientifique Henley Presents The Solar Wind

Speaker:  Professor Andrew Coates, Professor of Physics, Deputy Director Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London

Date:  Wednesday 15 July 2020

Time:  You can log in from 7pm for the talk at 7:30pm, followed by Break 8:15pm ,Q&A 8:30pm

Space is not empty. Instead, the regions between the Sun and the planets is filled by a constantly blowing stream of material, the solar wind. This is a plasma – the fourth state of matter after solid, liquid and gas, and its fluid behaviour is modified by electric and magnetic fields. The temperature of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, is a million degrees, much hotter than its visible surface (6,000 degrees). The ions and electrons can escape the Sun’s huge gravity, and expand supersonically into the solar system, interacting with anything in the way like planets, comets and asteroids, until it reaches interstellar space. Here, we will discuss the discovery of the solar wind, and discuss the effects it has, such as aurora and ‘space weather’ at the Earth and at other magnetized planets. Mars lost its protective magnetic field 3.8 billion years ago, and the solar wind has stripped its early, habitable atmosphere. We will mention current space missions like Solar Orbiter and Parker Solar Probe which are exploring the near-Sun regions, and look forward to the Rosalind Franklin rover to search for life on Mars, launching in 2022.

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