A couple of days ago I mentioned that NASA was having a teleconference today (June 9) to discuss conditions at the edge of the Solar System. (You can find it mentioned at the end of this post.) Well, the conference is over, and the press releases are out, along with some new images and a nifty video to explain it all.
I find the video gives the best explanation about what has been learned. It is a bit amazing to know we are still learning so much about our own Solar System, and we recognize that we still have much to learn.
|Old and new views of the heliosheath. Red and blue spirals are the gracefully curving magnetic field lines of orthodox models. New data from Voyager add a magnetic froth (inset) to the mix. Credit: NASA|
The basic gist of the findings is that a froth of magnetic bubbles make up the barrier between us and interstellar space. This is determined from data gathered by the Voyager probes and computer modelling. These bubbles change the old idea that there was a smooth barrier at the edge of the Solar System.
The froth seems to be generated by twisting in the Sun's magnetic field, causing the bubbles that can be a 100 million miles across. As Merav Opher, an astronomer at Boston University (and formerly George Mason University) puts it:
"The sun's magnetic field extends all the way to the edge of the solar system. Because the sun spins, its magnetic field becomes twisted and wrinkled, a bit like a ballerina's skirt. Far, far away from the sun, where the Voyagers are, the folds of the skirt bunch up."Another amazing find from the astronomical community. This discovery will also help to build a better understanding about how galactic cosmic rays enter our solar system and help define how the star interacts with the rest of the galaxy. You can read the NASA feature story here.
(I am still working on an Astro-Lesson on Comets, I might just put that off until next week now.)