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5 - Solar physics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2009

Thomas E. Cravens
Affiliation:
University of Kansas
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Summary

The Sun is a star. As stars go, the Sun is rather cool and small and has the gross characteristics listed in Table 5.1. The Sun is the source of virtually all energy in our solar system, including the Earth. Solar radiation heats our atmosphere and provides the light needed to sustain life on our planet. The Sun is also the source of space plasmas throughout the solar system. For example, solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation is largely responsible for the existence of planetary ionospheres via the photoionization of atoms and molecules in the upper atmospheres of the planets. The solar wind plasma is really an extension of the solar corona out into interplanetary space. The Sun is also, naturally, the source of solar activity. Solar activity refers to both short-term and long-term temporal variations in the solar atmosphere (and hence in the solar wind) that create changes in the Earth's plasma environment (i.e., geomagnetic activity). We will deal with the effects of solar activity on the Earth later.

The field of solar physics has advanced dramatically during the past few decades, due to observations made by increasingly sophisticated ground- and space-based observatories, including NASA's OGO, Skylab, and Solar Maximum missions and the NASA/ESA SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) mission, and due to theoretical developments in the areas of stellar nuclear physics, stellar radiative transfer, and solar MHD.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1997

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  • Solar physics
  • Thomas E. Cravens, University of Kansas
  • Book: Physics of Solar System Plasmas
  • Online publication: 26 October 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511529467.008
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  • Solar physics
  • Thomas E. Cravens, University of Kansas
  • Book: Physics of Solar System Plasmas
  • Online publication: 26 October 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511529467.008
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Solar physics
  • Thomas E. Cravens, University of Kansas
  • Book: Physics of Solar System Plasmas
  • Online publication: 26 October 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511529467.008
Available formats
×