Sunspots, Flares, and Solar Wind

How do we see the effects of the solar wind in the solar system?

One easily visible effect of the solar wind can be seen in the tail of a comet. When a comet enters the inner solar system, the increased temperatures cause it to lose a small portion of its outer layers, which sublimate from solid to gas. The loosened material is swept back away from the Sun, forming the comet’s tail. The electrically neutral particles are pushed back by the Sun’s radiation pressure—the momentum of sunlight itself—while the electrically charged particles are pushed back by the solar wind. Sometimes, these two components separate slightly, and we can see both a “dust tail” and an “ion tail.”


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