loading page

Nine Outstanding Questions of Solar Wind Physics
  • Nicholeen, Mary Viall,
  • Joseph, E. Borovsky
Nicholeen, Mary Viall

Corresponding Author:nicholeen.m.viall@nasa.gov

Author Profile
Joseph, E. Borovsky
Space Science Institute
Author Profile


In situ measurements of the solar wind have been available for almost 60 years, and in that time plasma-physics simulation capabilities have commenced, and ground-based solar observations have expanded into space-based solar observations. These observations and simulations have yielded an increasingly improved knowledge of fundamental physics and have delivered a remarkable understanding of the solar wind and its complexity. Yet there are longstanding major unsolved questions. Synthesizing inputs from the solar wind research community, nine outstanding questions of solar-wind physics are developed and discussed in this commentary. These involve questions about the formation of the solar wind, about the inherent properties of the solar wind (and what the properties say about its formation), and about the evolution of the solar wind. The questions focus on (1) origin locations on the Sun, (2) plasma release, (3) acceleration, (4) heavy-ion abundances and charge states, (5) magnetic structure, (6) Alfven waves, (7) turbulence, (8) distribution-function evolution, and (9) energetic-particle transport. On these nine questions we offer suggestions for future progress, forward looking on what is likely to be accomplished in near future with data from Parker Solar Probe, from Solar Orbiter, from the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), and from Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH). Calls are made for improved measurements, for higher-resolution simulations, and for advances in plasma-physics theory.
Jul 2020Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics volume 125 issue 7. 10.1029/2018JA026005