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"Plumelets" on the Sun. Image: NASA/SDO/Uritsky, et al

Relatively small structures on the Sun could help govern the solar wind.

Why it matters: Solar wind batters the Earth's magnetic field, and strong solar storms can disrupt satellites and even power grids on the planet. Learning more about how they work will help researchers forecast it in the future.

How it works: Solar wind — which is made of plasma — is propelled into space along the Sun's magnetic field lines.

  • Now, researchers have found smaller "plumelets" that make up bright structures known as plumes not far from the Sun's surface could disrupt the solar wind, having cascading effects out into space, according to a new study in The Astrophysical Journal.
  • “People have seen structure in and at the base of plumes for a while,” NASA's Judy Karpen, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement. “But we’ve found that the plume itself is a bundle of these denser, flowing plumelets, which is very different from the picture of plumes we had before.”
  • The research team found that plumelets also move independently, which could help them figure out more about how even just a few of these small structures contribute to changes in the solar wind.

The big picture: A number of missions launched in recent years are keeping an eye on the Sun, gathering data that could help forecast its weather in the future.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Falling solar prices give Biden a head start on zero-carbon goal

We've written plenty about the big institutional and political headwinds facing Biden's agenda, so here's one of the tailwinds: falling prices for zero-carbon power tech.

Driving the news: A new analysis looking at one of them finds that utility-scale solar is already the cheapest form of new power generation in 16 states.

Updated 39 mins ago - Health

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron would also help against the new variant of concern, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."

2 hours ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.