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A Public Outreach Module: Solar Wind, Genesis, and the Planets

Genesis module

"Solar Wind, Genesis, and the Planets" is divided into pages that make up a unit, or module, of solar wind study. This module answers some frequently-asked questions, including: "What can we learn from studying the solar wind? What is the relationship between solar wind and Solar Max? What can solar wind data tell us about the Genesis mission? How does solar wind affect the planets in our solar system?" The Genesis spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 8, 2001. After a million-mile journey that took nearly 3 months, the spacecraft went into perfect orbit insertion about the first Lagrangian point, L1, the morning of November 16, 2001. In its science collection phase, the spacecraft is collecting solar wind particles in hexagonal wafer-shaped collectors made of very pure silicon, aluminum, gold/platinum, diamond, and germanium. Also on board is a brand new instrument called the concentrator. It has an electrostatic mirror that is designed to focus solar wind particles on a special chemical vapor deposit (CVD) diamond and silicon carbide surface. This instrument will also collect solar wind particles and specific elements of solar wind, which will enable collection of a more dense concentration of oxygen and its isotopes.

Analysis of the solar wind plasma collected by the Genesis spacecraft will enable scientists to better understand the composition of the original solar nebula. It is thought that most of the composition of that nebula has been preserved in the outer layers of the sun, so the constituents in the solar wind, which flows from the sun's corona, are presumed to be very similar to the material from which our solar system was formed.

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Curator: Aimee Meyer
Updated: November 2009

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