A solar flare sends many atoms in space (mainly He and H), many of which, when they reach Earth, are ions (He++ and H+).

What I recall from my school days, is that an electron goes from one atom to another, one example of such transfers being electricity.

What I'm wondering is: where do the Helium and Hydrogen electrons go to in an event such as a solar flare?


2 Answers 2


The solar wind, and more generally plasma in space is not charged on average; it is electrically neutral. That means you have the positively charged ions and the corresponding amount of electrons.

In space plasma physics one often (or at least sometimes) can get away with only modelling the heavy ions as particles and treating the electron gas as liquid which follow the ions. Due to the mass difference, the ions carry (given the same velocity), roughly a thousand times more energy than the electrons.

In the presence of magnetic fields where opposite charges cannot follow the same trajectory, this gives rise to currents, like the Earth's Ring Current.


Their destination might be possibly either of

  1. Winding up one way mission to the space and the speeding particle is free of the Earth's magnetic field, and if the collision happens to set it on a course for the stars, that's where it goes
  2. (or) Capture back by the Earth's magnetic field and back to Earth.

Sometimes, in case of solar flares, some Earth's magnetic field line can be weaken and pushed away by solar winds. At those time, charged particles guided by these magnetic fields can simply fly off the weak ends like sparks off a live wire.

  • $\begingroup$ So are you saying that the electrons can travel on their own without an atom? Also I thought that the He⁺⁺ and H⁺ were created close to the sun (any star, I would imagine), not the Earth or did I get that wrong? If astronauts are bombarded by protons, I would imagine that the loss of the electron happens way before those atoms reach Earth. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2022 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ If electrons could not travel on their own, the cathode ray TVs never would have worked. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2022 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ It's not just the Earth. Jupiter and Saturn have much stronger magnetic fields than does the Earth. While thee solar wind can influence the planets, the planets have little influence on the solar wind. The vast, vast majority of solar wind particles escape the solar system. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2022 at 10:10

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