Researchers Study Solar Wind Through Building ‘Mini-Sun’

Tuesday, July 30, 2019 - 10:27

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison built their own "mini-sun" in order to find out how sun’s magnetic field influences the entire solar system.

Researchers released their findings in detailed in the journal Nature Physics on July 29 and claimed that their creation is millions times smaller than the real deal at just 3 meters wide, cnet reports.

In order to understand more about the influences of sun’s magnetic field on the entire solar system, researchers pump in helium gas (which is present in the actual sun) and turn it into plasma. A magnet at the center of the ‘Big Red Ball’ creates a magnetic field and once the team applies an electric current to the machine it accurately mimics how the real sun's plasma and magnetic fields usually operate.

"Satellite missions have documented pretty well where the fast wind comes from," said Ethan Peterson, lead author on the study and a graduate student at UW-Madison, in a press release. "We were trying to study specifically how the slow solar wind is generated and how it evolves as it travels toward Earth."

The Big Red Ball's experiments are designed to complement the existing missions to better understand the sun. NASA's Parker Solar Probe is currently circling the solar system's big ball of gas, hoping to unravel more of the mystery's surrounding its atmosphere and the solar wind.


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