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NASA discovers mysterious waves at edge of solar system that discharge storms of energetic neutral atoms

Analysis of data Interstellar probe Voyager 1 and 2 and IBEX satellites, all from NASA, have detected wavy structures in the part of space at the edge of the Solar System. These are wavy structures located between the termination shock and the heliopause: the changing regions of space that mark one of the boundaries between what is inside the Solar System and what is outside: interstellar space.

What are the previous maps of the structure of the heliosphere based on? Mass measurement of solar wind pressure evolution and energetic emission from neutral atoms, resulting in a smoothing of the boundary in both space and time.



A team of scientists led by Princeton University astrophysicist Eric Zierstein have used this smaller-scale event to obtain a more detailed snapshot of the size of the termination shock and heliopause, and got big wavesOn a scale of tens of astronomical units (one astronomical unit is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun). This research is published in Nature Astronomy.

They also ran models and simulations to determine how this high-pressure wind interacts with the edge of the solar system. They found that the pressure front had reached termination shock in 2015, sending a pressure wave through the region between the termination shock and the heliopause is known as the internal heliosheathInformatics Alert.


Black hole simulation image.

At the heliopause, a reflected wave travels back, colliding with a flow of charged plasma that is still penetrating behind the pressure front, creating a storm of energetic neutral atoms Which fills the inner helisheath when the reflected wave returns to the termination shock.

The team’s measurements also show a fairly significant change in the distance to the heliopause. Voyager 1 passed the heliopause in 2012 at a distance of 122 astronomical units. In 2016, the team measured the distance to the heliopause in the direction of Voyager 1 to be about 131 astronomical units; At the time, the probe was 136 astronomical units from the Sun, which is still in interstellar space but with a bloated heliosphere behind it.


Abstract Metallic Spiral Spring Background Neon Light

The team’s measurements for the heliopause in the direction of Voyager 2 in 2015 are a bit more complicated: 103 astronomical units, with a margin of error of 8 astronomical units on each side. At the time, Voyager 2 was 109 astronomical units from the Sun, which is still in error. It did not cross the heliopause until 2018 at a distance of 119 astronomical units.

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