Glossary term: Solar Wind

Also known as Stellar wind

Description: The solar wind is a stream of particles, primarily protons and electrons, flowing outwards from the Sun at up to 900 kilometers per second. The solar wind is essentially the hot solar corona expanding into interplanetary space.

Many stars have winds; cooler, magnetically active stars like the Sun have winds driven by the hot coronae created by their magnetic fields. Some hotter stars have winds driven by their huge luminosities pushing particles out of their upper atmospheres by radiation pressure. Cool red giants and supergiants can also have winds driven by radiation pressure. The general term for a wind from a star is a stellar wind.

The bombardment of particles from a solar or stellar wind can be detrimental to any life that might be hosted by a planet. The Earth's magnetic field protects life on its surface from damaging effects of the solar wind. The interaction between the solar wind and Earth's magnetic field is the cause of aurorae close to the Earth's poles.

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Term and definition status: This term and its definition have been approved by a research astronomer and a teacher

The OAE Multilingual Glossary is a project of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE) in collaboration with the IAU Office of Astronomy Outreach (OAO). The terms and definitions were chosen, written and reviewed by a collective effort from the OAE, the OAE Centers and Nodes, the OAE National Astronomy Education Coordinators (NAECs) and other volunteers. You can find a full list of credits here. All glossary terms and their definitions are released under a Creative Commons CC BY-4.0 license and should be credited to "IAU OAE".