KQED-FM, FORUM (SAN FRANCISCO) -- Andrew Fraknoi is professor of astronomy, San Francisco State's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the University of San Francisco's Fromm Institute. He is emeritus chair of the Astronomy program at Foothill College.
“The surface of the sun is a seething hot mess of not just gas but magnetic fields — strong, strong magnetism in the sun, which roils the solar outside,” Fraknoi says. “And so there’s a wind coming from the sun, a regular blowing out of particles, which go by the Earth at a million miles per hour.
“There are also explosions on the sun, when the magnetism is suddenly let go. And so there’s a huge stream of particles. These are called coronal mass ejections. And if they’re big enough they can actually interfere with communications on Earth, with the power grid. So we want to monitor the sun better.”