Gallery: Researchers Discover Solar Wind Energy Source that Could Revol...


Using data collected by NASA’s Wind solar probe, scientists have identified an energy source that causes solar winds to heat up and accelerate as they travel further away from their source. The discovery pinpoints ion cyclotron waves as the source of this strange phenomenon, which could revolutionize the nuclear energy industry

Compared to winds on Earth, which carry gasses at the same speed and temperature, solar winds behave in a way which is counterintuitive. Instead of decelerating and loosing energy with distance, solar winds gain speed and temperature as they flows away from their source. These strange properties could lead to groundbreaking advances in nuclear power, according to researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The team, led by Dr. Justin Kasper, processed a 19-year record of solar wind temperatures collected by the Wind solar probe, NASA’s oldest active spacecraft. The findings confirmed existing theories that ion cyclotron waves affect the temperature and speed of solar winds as they emanate from the sun. Heavy ions interact with ion cyclotron waves and gain energy and heat with distance.

In the case of nuclear fusion reactors on Earth, heavy ions can get into the plasma where the fusion takes place, cool it and eventually stop the fusion reaction. Ion cyclotron waves might reverse that process, according to Kasper and his team.

Via and NASA Science News


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1 Comment

  1. Thomas Stuart March 12, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Lidija, winds on this planet do not carry gasses at the same speed and temperature. They speed up and slow down, they cool and heat up. What the article was trying (rather clumsily) to say was that the individual components of out atmosphere do not have different temps and speeds depending on what they are. For example, nitrogen atoms here on earth do not move at a different speed or different temperature then oxygen atoms do. This is not true about the solar wind.

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