Research NewsSolar Physics

Two Spacecraft Track the Solar Wind to Its Source

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Science  17 Oct 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5337, pp. 387-388
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5337.387a

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The precise source of the wind of particles that originates near the sun's surface and blows throughout the solar system has been a mystery. Solar physicists' best guess has been that one component, a steady, fast wind that blows at up to 800 kilometers a second, originates near the sun's poles; the wind's other component, more capricious and slow, seems to come from somewhere within a broad region around the solar equator. Now, by coordinating observations of the sun's atmosphere from two different spacecraft, a new study may have finally pinpointed the source of the slow wind--while calling into doubt the standard wisdom on the fast wind.