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Our Sun

All the planets, moons, and smaller things in the solar system are just dust, compared to the star that they orbit; the Sun contains 99.9% of the mass of the solar system. We think of it as our source of light, but it doesn't just emit photons. The solar wind blasts fast-moving electrons, protons, and highly ionized atoms in all directions, a constant stream punctuated by ferocious coronal mass ejections. The solar wind carries with it a magnetic field wound into a tight spiral by the Sun's rotation.

The solar wind pushes outward against the interstellar medium, penning the solar system inside a bubble called the "heliosphere" that's at least 200 AU across. The twin Voyager spacecraft are now probing the heliosphere's edges. Closer to home, a fleet of spacecraft monitors the space weather generated by the Sun, warning us of its effects on Earth, from the benevolent (aurorae) to the potentially disastrous (irradiation of astronauts and damage to communications satellites and power grids).  Currently operating solar space observatories include ACE, GGS, WIND, Hinode, PICARD, RHESSI, SOHO, SDO, Solar Monitoring Observatory, and STEREO.

Latest Blog Entries about the Sun, Heliosphere, and Space Weather

Solar flares from Skylab

Posted by Jason Davis on 2012/01/26 05:26 CST

Before automated space observatories like SDO could send pictures and videos of solar phenomenon in real-time, humans had to do it manually, as in the case of the groundbreaking Skylab space station missions, which featured the Apollo Telescope Mount.

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Solar eclipses from space: Hinode and SDO

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/01/06 11:33 CST

Two spacecraft that keep their ever-watchful eyes on the Sun -- NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and JAXA's Hinode -- were doing their thing, when something large wandered past: the Moon.

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Not Necessarily Your Last Venus Transit!

Posted by Jim Bell on 2012/06/04 11:24 CDT | 3 comments

Unless you are lucky and healthy enough to live for another 105 years, tomorrow will be your last chance to see a Venus transit from the surface of the Earth. But this need not be the last transit of Venus that you will ever see.

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Missions to a Star

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/02/17 02:45 CST | 2 comments

Upcoming deep space missions will venture right to the heart of the Solar System.

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Mars conjunction today: Cool SOHO/SDO video

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/04 11:41 CST

Today Mars made its closest approach to the Sun -- as seen from Earth, that is. Why is this important?

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