December 4, 2022

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Mysterious discovery on the edge of the solar system

Mysterious discovery on the edge of the solar system

18 billion kilometers from Earth is the boundary between the huge gas bubble of electrically charged particles that surrounds our solar system and interstellar space.

The bubble itself is called the heliosphere and is formed by strong solar winds, which constantly blow particles towards the boundary region and protect our solar system from dangerous radiation.

Only two vehicles have penetrated the shield of the solar system, so the area is relatively unexplored.

But now data from three NASA spacecraft has taught us more about the outer shape of our solar system. This is not as uniform as we thought.

Sudden change made it possible

In a new studyPublished in the scientific journal natural astronomy Researchers from Princeton University, among others, studied data from NASA’s IBEX satellite, which went into orbit in 2009 to map the heliosphere.

The researchers then combined the numbers with data from the twin Voyager 1 and 2, which passed through the heliosphere in 2012 and 2018, respectively.

By analyzing the measurements of the three ships, the researchers detected a sudden change in solar wind pressure as early as 2014, allowing them to better study the boundary and get a more detailed picture of its shape.

Huge waves detected

In the heliosphere itself, which forms the boundary, they detected huge ripples or waves of 10 astronomical units (one astronomical unit corresponds to the distance between the Earth and the Sun).

They also recorded large differences in distance from the boundary region itself, indicating that the shape of the giant gas bubble is irregular and constantly changing.

Astronomers hope to learn more about the outer edge of the solar system when NASA’s IMAP probe replaces IBEX in 2025, with better equipment to map the vast region.

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