The Solar System’s Missing Boundary
“Since the 1980’s, space scientists have generally accepted that the bubble of gas and magnetic fields generated by the sun –the heliosphere – moves through space, creating three distinct boundary layers that culminate in an outermost bow shock. This shock is similar to the sonic boom created ahead of a supersonic jet. Earth itself certainly has one of these bow shocks on the sunward side of its magnetic environment, as do most other planets and many stars. A collection of new data from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), however, now indicate that the sun does not have a bow shock, creating more of a “wake” as it travels through space. The image above taken by multiple telescopes shows bow shocks that exist around other astrospheres.
The boundaries of the heliosphere have largely been assumed to be a series of three. The first is a fairly spherical boundary called the termination shock — the point where the solar wind streaming from the sun slows down below supersonic speeds. From there the wind continues more slowly until it collides with the material in the rest of the galaxy and is pushed back, deflecting around the outskirts of the heliosphere, streaming back toward the tail of the moving bubble. This second boundary is called the heliopause. The third boundary was thought to be the bow shock, formed as the heliosphere plowed its way through the local galactic cloud the same way a supersonic jet pushes aside the air as it moves.
In a paper appearing online in Science Express on May 10, 2012, scientists compile data from IBEX, NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft, and computer models to show that the heliosphere just isn’t moving fast enough to create a bow shock in the tenuous and highly magnetized region in our local part of the galaxy.”
· #solar system #astronomyfacts #astronomy #cosmology #space #science #NASA #IBEX Previous Post | Next Post