View Full Version : Do charged particles from the sun have mass?

2008-Nov-02, 02:54 AM
I was wondering if the particles from the sun that make up the northern lights have and mass to them?

grant hutchison
2008-Nov-02, 03:07 AM
They do. They're protons and electrons.
Strictly, they cause the northern lights, rather than "make up" the northern lights. What you're seeing is light from atmospheric gases ionized by the incoming particles.

Grant Hutchison

2008-Nov-02, 03:12 AM
Yes, my mistake on the iteration.

Are these particles negative or positively charged?

(Kind of a newb question) (+)charge means more electrons than protons, and (-) vice versa?

What happens to the particles as/after they pass through our atmosphere?

2008-Nov-02, 03:19 AM
- charge is electrons + charge is protons.

Aurora are caused when electrons precipitate out of the magnetosphere into the atmosphere. The electrons start hitting the atoms of the atmosphere and either start knocking the electrons in the atmosphereic atoms around. As the electrons in the atmo atoms return to the ground state, they give off light.

The electrons that precipitate will eventually find a lonely ion and make friends.

2008-Nov-02, 03:36 AM
So, the Earth gains a a tiny bit of mass from this interaction?

How fast are these particles moving when they reach Earth?

Is it true that these particles accelerate as they leave the Sun?

2008-Nov-02, 06:45 AM
So, the Earth gains a a tiny bit of mass from this interaction?

Technically yes, but since one hydrogen atom lost to diffusion is 1840 electrons gained, it dosent make much difference.

How fast are these particles moving when they reach Earth?

I think auroral electrons are a couple keV. Maybe .01c or so, but dont quote me

Is it true that these particles accelerate as they leave the Sun?

Technically, again, the electrons leaving the sun are almost always part of a plasma, not lone electrons. The plasma does accelerate from all sorts of plasma effects in the upper magnetosphere of the sun.

2008-Nov-04, 10:00 AM
How fast are these particles moving when they reach Earth?These particles form part of the solar wind, which has two components: a gusty slow component where the outflow of particles is partly disrupted by loops of magnetic lines in the Sun's magnetic field; and a steady fast component where coronal holes appear in the magnetic field and the particles are accelerated away from the Sun by magnetic lines reaching out into interplanetary space.

At the Earth's distance from the Sun, the slow component of the solar wind blows at speeds of about 300-400 km s-1.

The fast component blows at a steady 750 km s-1, or about 0.0025c.

2008-Nov-07, 12:34 AM
Erocia's numbers are about main stream opinion at one astronomical unit, but not close to Earth. At less than a million kilometers behind Earth, Earth's magnetosphere accelerates, decelerates and bends the path of these high speed particles, so many of them enter Earth's upper atmosphere near the North and South pole. Most are absorbed by an atom of atmosphere before they reach the surface, but the polar regions do have slightly higher background radiation levels than low latitudes. There are also some helium nuclei and some protons but most of the literature suggests electrons are more numerous.. Neil

John Mendenhall
2008-Nov-07, 03:49 PM
OP, are you really asking if there is significant matter accretion from Sun to Earth?

2008-Nov-07, 05:06 PM
toothdust. There should be exactly the same number of protons and electrons or the Earth would have accrued an enormous static charge through the eons. This hasn't happened, so the flow is perfectly neutralized. Atomic hydrogen, formed when the stray proton meets stray electron, is unstable and forms molecular hydrogen, but this can dissociate under exposure to ultraviolet...so it's an equilibrium situation with the molecules forming (associating) and then breaking (dissociating). At the top of the atmosphere, hydrogen can reach escape velocity as part of it's Maxwellian distribution of velocities in a gas, and leak off into space. Most of the hydrogen accrues and does slightly increase Earth's mass. Some of your morning orange juice molecules were on the sun a few months ago.