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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.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."