Sunday, 17 November, 2019

NASA probe provides insight on solar system's border with interstellar space

Five things we’ve learned since Voyager 2 left the solar system NASA Voyager 2 Data Reveals There is a 'Distinct Boundary' to Solar System
Sandra Phillips | 06 November, 2019, 19:55

These five studies describe Voyager 2's journey through its transition through the heliopause (part of the solar system exposed to particles and ions of deep space) and heliosheath (the region of the heliosphere beyond the termination shock) to what lies beyond in the universe.

"In a historical sense, the old idea that the solar wind will just be gradually whittled away as you go further into interstellar space is simply not true", said Don Gurnett, co-author of a second plasma density paper and a professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at The University of Iowa in the US. Then Voyager 1 flies past star Gliese 445, at 17.6 light years from Earth.

Researchers from the University of Iowa have been carrying out this research.

Comparing what Voyager 2 learned with the data available from the Voyager 1 crossing provides interesting similarities and contrasts, Stone said. Together, these findings will help scientists picture this cosmic shoreline, "where the environment created by the [Earth's sun] ends and the vast ocean of interstellar space begins".

Greater than 4 many years after starting its epic journey, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft has crossed the elusive boundary that marks the sting of the Solar's realm and the beginning of interstellar area, scientists have introduced. This alignment was discovered by Voyager 1, and has now been confirmed by the Voyager 2 data.

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The two probes' heliopause crossings occurred at similar distances from the Sun: For Voyager 1, it was at 121.6 astronomical units, and for Voyager 2, it was 119 astronomical units (one AU equals the average distance from Earth to the Sun). Two spacecrafts had different paths: Voyager 2 didn't rush to the edge of Solar System, it explored Uranus and Neptune during planetary flybys first. The data also supports into a debate about the shape of the heliosphere, which some models sought to be spherical and others more like a wind sock, with a long tail floating out behind.

Our bubble protects the solar system from this "interstellar wind", and from cosmic radiation which could wreak havoc on our DNA.

The Iowa scientists say the heliosheath has varied thickness, based on data showing Voyager 1 sailed 10 AU farther than its twin to reach the heliopause. After over 40 years, both are functioning well enough to measure cosmic rays from the Sun as well as from interstellar space; the properties of nearby charged particles; the local magnetic field; and, in the case of Voyager 2, the energy of the local plasma. 2019. Voyager 2 plasma observations of the heliopause and interstellar medium. "But now that both Voyagers are exploring interstellar space, we have made a small, but significant, step towards reaching the nearest stars". "Two people go up to an elephant with a microscope, and they come up with two different measurements. It does not surprise me that a sharp boundary forms". An accompanying perspective suggests that Voyager 2 is going to be the last spacecraft to cross this boundary for at least 25 years.

In some ways, what Voyager 2 experienced was surprisingly different from what Voyager 1 found when it passed into interstellar space in 2012. In that space, the sting of our solar system's bubble, solar winds meet a movement of interstellar wind and fold back on themselves. With Voyager 1, scientists had only one sample of these magnetic fields and couldn't say for sure whether the apparent alignment was characteristic of the entire exterior region or just a coincidence. Voyager 2 also sent out signals that hint that the plasma outside the heliosphere could be compressed as it is slightly warmer, though it is unclear what is causing the compression.

However, the width of the layer seen by Voyager 2 matches the width of a so-called stagnation region detected by Voyager 1. "They're in their own orbits around the galaxy for five billion years or longer". They will likely not run into anything and could very well outlast planet Earth.

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