National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have developed a new prediction about the shape of the bubble that surrounds our solar system. This has been made possible after the data collected from a model that was developed using various NASA missions.
Earlier, scientists thought that the shape of our heliosphere that travels through space as it orbits around the centre of the galaxy is similar to that of a comet with a round leading edge with a long tail trailing behind.
The scientists have not been able to figure out the shape of our solar system’s heliosphere because its closest edge is more than ten billion miles from Earth. With the help of two Voyager spacecraft, they have been able to measure this region.
To study our boundary to the interstellar space, astronomers have been capturing and observing particles flying toward our planet. Galactic cosmic rays, the charged particles that come from different parts of the galaxy along with existing ones help scientists study the boundary of our galaxy as they travel out towards the heliosphere and are bounced back by a series of electromagnetic processes. Under NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), scientists use these particles as radar to know our boundary to the interstellar space.
“There are two fluids mixed together. You have one component that is very cold and one component that is much hotter, the pick-up ions,” said Opher, a professor of astronomy at Boston University. “If you have some cold fluid and hot fluid, and you put them in space, they won’t mix — they will evolve mostly separately. What we did was separate these two components of the solar wind and model the resulting 3D shape of the heliosphere.”
“Because the pick-up ions dominate the thermodynamics, everything is very spherical. But because they leave the system very quickly beyond the termination shock, the whole heliosphere deflates,” said Opher.
What is heliosphere?
Heliosphere acts like a shield to our solar system that guards us against the rest of the galaxy from particles shot after a supernova (a powerful and luminous stellar explosion). However, it can’t absorb all of the radiations and lets a quarter of these galactic rays into our solar system.
The particles that break through our heliosphere are still dangerous but our planet is protected by its magnetic field and atmosphere. That’s why there is a need to understand our heliosphere which will be a major breakthrough in future space exploration.
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