The solar wind and the heliosphere

The heliosphere is the realm dominated by the solar wind. It can be regarded as the outer region of the solar corona, that permeates the entire Solar System. The Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) is involved in several studies of the solar wind.

The currently most important project is an interdisciplinary study within the framework of the Ulysses mission. The goal of this project is to look at the heliospheric current sheet and other plasma discontinuities in the solar wind at various heliographic latitudes, and to understand their internal structure and dynamics. Another scientific project relying on Ulysses data is the study of the progressive change of the electron velocity distribution with heliocentric distance in coronal holes.

The picture shows the Ulysses satellite as it travels above the poles of the Sun (shown here by an X-ray image) to observe the solar wind, always keeping its antenna pointed towards Earth in order to transmit its measurements in a never-ending stream of scientific information to the ground stations.

We have also cooperated with the Wind magnetometer and plasma teams and the University of Cologne to study the structure of the heliospheric current sheet and of solar wind discontinuities in slow and fast solar wind streams.

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