Giant Ribbon Discovered at the Edge of the Solar System

Conspirator
User avatar
Posts: 2040
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:31 pm

PostFri Oct 16, 2009 12:10 pm » by Nickelson


For years, researchers have known that the solar system is surrounded by a vast bubble of magnetism. Called the "heliosphere," it springs from the sun and extends far beyond the orbit of Pluto, providing a first line of defense against cosmic rays and interstellar clouds that try to enter our local space. Although the heliosphere is huge and literally fills the sky, it emits no light and no one has actually seen it.

Until now.

NASA's IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft has made the first all-sky maps of the heliosphere and the results have taken researchers by surprise. The maps are bisected by a bright, winding ribbon of unknown origin:

Image
Above: IBEX's all-sky map of energetic neutral atom emission reveals a bright filament of unknown origin. V1 and V2 indicate the positions of the Voyager spacecraft.

"This is a shocking new result," says IBEX principal investigator Dave McComas of the Southwest Research Institute. "We had no idea this ribbon existed--or what has created it. Our previous ideas about the outer heliosphere are going to have to be revised."

Although the ribbon looks bright in the IBEX map, it does not glow in any conventional sense. The ribbon is not a source of light, but rather a source of particles--energetic neutral atoms or ENAs. IBEX's sensors can detect these particles, which are produced in the outer heliosphere where the solar wind begins to slow down and mix with interstellar matter from outside the solar system.

"This ribbon winds between the two Voyager spacecraft and was not observed by either of them," notes Eric Christian, IBEX deputy mission scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "It's like having two weather stations, but missing the big storm that runs between them."

Unlike the Voyager spacecraft, which have spent decades traveling to the edge of the solar system for in situ sampling, IBEX stayed closer to home. It is in Earth orbit, spinning around and collecting ENAs from all directions. This gives IBEX the unique "big picture" view necessary to discover something as vast as the ribbon.

The ribbon also has fine structure--small filaments of ENA emission no more than a few degrees wide. The fine structure is as much of a mystery as the ribbon itself, researchers say.

One important clue: The ribbon runs perpendicular to the direction of the galactic magnetic field just outside the heliosphere, as shown in the illustration below.

Image

"That cannot be a coincidence," says McComas. But what does it mean? No one knows. "We're missing some fundamental aspect of the interaction between the heliosphere and the rest of the galaxy. Theorists are working like crazy to figure this out."

Understanding the physics of the outer heliosphere is important because of the role it plays in shielding the solar system against cosmic rays. The heliosphere's size and shape are key factors in determining its shielding power and, thus, how many cosmic rays reach Earth. For the first time, IBEX is revealing how the heliosphere might respond when it bumps into interstellar clouds and galactic magnetic fields.

"IBEX is now making a second all-sky map, and we're eager to see if the ribbon is changing," says McComas. "Watching the ribbon evolve--if it is evolving--could yield more clues."

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/15oct_ibex.htm
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Conspirator
User avatar
Posts: 2040
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:31 pm

PostFri Oct 16, 2009 1:04 pm » by Nickelson


One important clue: The ribbon runs perpendicular to the direction of the galactic magnetic field just outside the heliosphere "That cannot be a coincidence," says McComas. But what does it mean? No one knows.


Does anyone here has an idea? I don't actually.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Conspirator
User avatar
Posts: 2040
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:31 pm

PostFri Oct 16, 2009 2:38 pm » by Nickelson


concrete wrote:Hmm. Interesting stuff. It's like a compression wave held in check by an external force directly opposite the galactic magnetic field.

Or, like when you blow on a bubble, it ridges slightly, perpendicular to the direction of blowing.


A wormhole?
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Conspirator
Posts: 5671
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 11:28 am

PostFri Oct 16, 2009 2:45 pm » by Drextin


very strange indeed. could it be the area of friction where the galactic field and heliosphere meet? i don't know i'm just spit balling here.

since the entire solar system is moving above the galactic plane this could be a temporary event. by temporary i mean in terms of the time it takes for the system to move to another region of the galaxy.........tens or hundreds of thousand of years. either way will be interesting to see how this affects what enters the solar system.
I am a nightmare walking, psychopath talking
King of my jungle just a gangster stalking

Master Conspirator
User avatar
Posts: 10609
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2009 11:11 pm

PostFri Oct 16, 2009 2:54 pm » by Cornbread714


Nice find. :flop:

I'm blown away just how much we've discovered in the past few decades and how much our understanding of the universe has changed. There's way more going on out there than I ever could have imagined when I was a kid.
Where's the beer and when do I get paid?
- Jimmy Carl Black (the Indian of the group)

Conspirator
User avatar
Posts: 2040
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:31 pm

PostFri Oct 16, 2009 2:55 pm » by Nickelson


drextin wrote:very strange indeed. could it be the area of friction where the galactic field and heliosphere meet? i don't know i'm just spit balling here.

since the entire solar system is moving above the galactic plane this could be a temporary event. by temporary i mean in terms of the time it takes for the system to move to another region of the galaxy.........tens or hundreds of thousand of years. either way will be interesting to see how this affects what enters the solar system.


We just have to wait on the second observation and conclusion, but Concrete's explanation was a good one and really makes me wonder :headscratch:

Image

Not a very good example, but you know what I mean...I hope.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Initiate
User avatar
Posts: 279
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:19 pm

PostMon Jan 18, 2010 2:39 pm » by Spoetnick


spoetnick wrote:January 15, 2010: Last year, when NASA's IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft discovered a giant ribbon at the edge of the solar system, researchers were mystified. They called it a "shocking result" and puzzled over its origin. Now the mystery may have been solved.
Image
An artist's concept of the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX).

"We believe the ribbon is a reflection," says Jacob Heerikhuisen, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "It is where solar wind particles heading out into interstellar space are reflected back into the solar system by a galactic magnetic field."

Heerikhuisen is the lead author of a paper reporting the results in the Jan. 10th edition of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"This is an important finding," says Arik Posner, IBEX program scientist at NASA Headquarters. "Interstellar space just beyond the edge of the solar system is mostly unexplored territory. Now we know, there could be a strong, well-organized magnetic field sitting right on our doorstep."

The IBEX data fit in nicely with recent results from Voyager. Voyager 1 and 2 are near the edge of the solar system and they also have sensed strong magnetism nearby.
Voyager measurements are relatively local to the spacecraft, however. IBEX is filling in the "big picture." The ribbon it sees is vast and stretches almost all the way across the sky, suggesting that the magnetic field behind it must be equally vast.

Although maps of the ribbon (see below) seem to show a luminous body, the ribbon emits no light. Instead, it makes itself known via particles called "energetic neutral atoms" (ENAs)--mainly garden-variety hydrogen atoms. The ribbon emits these particles, which are picked up by IBEX in Earth orbit.

Image
A comparison of IBEX observations (left) with a 3D magnetic reflection model (right).

The reflection process posited by Heerikhuisen et al. is a bit complicated, involving multiple "charge exchange" reactions between protons and hydrogen atoms. The upshot, however, is simple. Particles from the solar wind that escape the solar system are met ~100 astronomical units (~15 billion kilometers) away by an interstellar magnetic field. Magnetic forces intercept the escaping particles and sling them right back where they came from.

"If this mechanism is correct--and not everyone agrees--then the shape of the ribbon is telling us a lot about the orientation of the magnetic field in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy," notes Heerikhuisen.

And upon this field, the future may hinge.

The solar system is passing through a region of the Milky Way filled with cosmic rays and interstellar clouds. The magnetic field of our own sun, inflated by the solar wind into a bubble called the "heliosphere," substantially protects us from these things.

However, the bubble itself is vulnerable to external fields. A strong magnetic field just outside the solar system could press against the heliosphere and interact with it in unknown ways. Will this strengthen our natural shielding—or weaken it? No one can say.

Image
An artist's concept of interstellar clouds in the galactic neighborhood of the sun.

"IBEX will monitor the ribbon closely in the months and years ahead," says Posner. "We could see the shape of the ribbon change—and that would show us how we are interacting with the galaxy beyond."

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2010/15jan_ibex2.htm


By the rules Aladin!

And for the record I am Nickelson.

Initiate
User avatar
Posts: 279
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:19 pm

PostMon Jan 18, 2010 2:53 pm » by Spoetnick


concrete wrote:
However, the bubble itself is vulnerable to external fields. A strong magnetic field just outside the solar system could press against the heliosphere and interact with it in unknown ways.


Hmm...

I still reckon a compression wave.


Well they've also found out not long ago that our Solar System is in a bubble which spread out pressure so it can travel through space. Like a snake swallowing a mouse!

Also the Milky Way is in a large bubble.

So it's actually a marble together with lots of other marbles in a giant sack.

Nevertheless it is interesting, what it all means and what possibilities it will lead to.



  • Related topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post
Visit Disclose.tv on Facebook