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Astrospheres and Solar-like Stellar Winds

Research paper by Brian E. Wood

Indexed on: 29 Jul '04Published on: 29 Jul '04Published in: Living Reviews in Solar Physics



Abstract

Stellar analogs for the solar wind have proven to be frustratingly difficult to detect directly. However, these stellar winds can be studied indirectly by observing the interaction regions carved out by the collisions between these winds and the interstellar medium (ISM). These interaction regions are called “astrospheres”, analogous to the “heliosphere” surrounding the Sun. The heliosphere and astrospheres contain a population of hydrogen heated by charge exchange processes that can produce enough H I Lyα absorption to be detectable in UV spectra of nearby stars from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The amount of astrospheric absorption is a diagnostic for the strength of the stellar wind, so these observations have provided the first measurements of solar-like stellar winds. Results from these stellar wind studies and their implications for our understanding of the solar wind are reviewed here. Of particular interest are results concerning the past history of the solar wind and its impact on planetary atmospheres.