Solar Wind and Satellites That Can Change the PlanetDownload Audio Version
The solar wind consists of protons and electrons that move at different speeds. It is a stream of ionized gases that move at low speeds over streams and at high speeds over coronal holes which are observed at the Sun’s poles. They produce storms when interacting with the atmosphere.
Effect on Magnetospheres
The protons, electrons, and other particles are deflected when they approach a magnetic field. Planets that have a strong magnetic field include Saturn, Jupiter, and the Earth. Some particles enter the Earth’s surface and atmosphere through the magnetopause. The environment on Earth is affected by the solar wind, its direction, density, and speed. This is because it interacts with the magnetosphere and determines its shape and size. The intensity of the solar wind varies with the Sun’s surface activity. Some high-energy particles get trapped in a belt around the Earth, known as the Van Allen radiation belt.
There are some processes and factors that influence the ways in which the magnetosphere and the solar wind interact. These include the ionosphere, energy, momentum, mass coupling, and closed and open magnetosphere processes.
The Solar Wind – Properties and Components
The most important components are magnetic, thermal, and flow. The electrons and protons are in equal amounts, and there is a small number of heavy ions and ionized helium. The particles carry kinetic energy, and it takes 4 days to reach the Earth. The solar wind consists of variable, dense, and slow flows and uniform and fast flows. Helium is found in small amounts of about 2.5 percent in slow winds and 3.6 percent in fast flows which start in areas that are in close proximity to the rotation axis of the Sun. Coronal mass ejections occur at different speeds, from several hundred to about two thousand km/s. The plasma has a high density while the speed at which the coronal mass ejections occur is an indicator of the important role of the magnetic field.
Slow flows originate in active regions with high freezing temperatures. There is neutral plasma above the photosphere, and this is where heating occurs. Collisions also occur because of the high density of plasma. Winds that are stable come from cold regions and are the fastest. When they travel outward, parameters such as temperature and velocity remain constant. Other parameters fluctuate, including mean magnetic field, proton temperature and density, and velocity. Proton density and velocity are in a non-linear relation. The same is true for the relation between magnetic field and velocity. The relation between speed and temperature is linear. When temperature increases, the speed of the solar wind also increases. This means that there is a correlation between the magnetic field, proton temperature, wind velocity, and other factors. The solar wind is also characterized by occurrences of turbulence, intermittence, and multifractals. They can lead to acceleration and heating of large amounts of plasma.
Potential Uses of Solar Power
Satellites can be used to focus the beam and direct it to the Earth’s surface. The Dyson-Harrop satellite is still a hypothetical structure that will harness the solar wind to generate power. The sail, which is 5,200 miles long (8,400 km) will direct copper wires toward the Sun, thus creating a magnetic field. The aim is to capture electrons and generate a current through a spherical receiver. Infrared laser beams will be used to beam energy to the Earth’s surface. This is a revolutionary technology that can produce about 1 billion GW of power. Figuring out how to do it is one of the most important questions for scientists to solve.
A satellite that is 10 meters in diameter and has a receiver of 2 meters can generate power for hundreds of families. A satellite with a sail of 8,400 km and a wire that is 1 km long can generate more power than households and businesses require. According to scientists, such satellites will be relatively easy to design and build because they are made of copper. The construction of such mega-structures has been discussed for several decades. They can direct energy toward the Earth’s surface 24 hours a day. Moreover, copper is less expensive than the materials used to make solar panels. This means that the construction of a satellite will cost less than a solar panel project of a similar scale. The problem is that the Dyson-Harrop satellite would lie too far from the Earth’s surface to direct sunlight. The beam will spread long before it reaches the atmosphere. Huge lenses and other optics will be required to direct sunlight toward the Earth. They will act as sub-stations and will direct laser beams. Another problem is that the current passing through the wire may burn it. A smaller version of the Dyson-Harrop can be used as a power generator for space missions.