Our Solar System

Although our Sun is an ordinary star, the Solar System is the only planetary system known to harbor life. Studying the Solar System enables us to learn how stable planetary systems form and how planets develop the conditions needed for life.

Solar Physics

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UVCS records light from ions of oxygen in the solar corona

Our Sun is an excellent laboratory for studying the everyday phenomena of a typical star. SSP scientists are experts in analyzing observations and developing theoretical models of the solar atmosphere, which produces the light we see and where powerful magnetic fields produce hot plasma and accelerate high energy particles that interact with the atmospheres of the Earth and other planets.

Planets & Comets

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Venus emits X-rays

Probably the most surprising objects observed in X-rays are comets. Comets were described by Fred Whipple as being "dirty snowballs". So how does a snowball make X-rays? Through a phenomenon called charge exchange.


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comet Tempel 1

Comets are thought to be among the most primitive bodies left over from the planetesimal building stage of the solar nebula, and so their physical and chemical composition provides an important link between nebular and interstellar processes.