What does the solar wind blow if space is a vacuum?


In fact, interplanetary space is not at all empty. The average particle density is about 2 - 5 atoms per cubic centimeter, and most of this is gas blown off from the surface/corona of the Sun as the solar wind. Eventually, this wind runs up against the interstellar medium which has a density of about 0.1 to 0.05 atoms per cubic centimeter, and astronomers expect that this 'bowshock' region will be discovered about 100 - 200 astronomical units from the Sun. That's about 3-5 times the distance to the planet Pluto.


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All answers are provided by Dr. Sten Odenwald (Raytheon STX) for the
NASA IMAGE/POETRY Education and Public Outreach program.