News / Science & Technology

Magnetic Bubbles Detected at Edge of Solar System

This artist's concept shows NASA's two Voyager spacecraft exploring a turbulent region of space known as the heliosheath, the outer shell of the bubble of charged particles around our sun
This artist's concept shows NASA's two Voyager spacecraft exploring a turbulent region of space known as the heliosheath, the outer shell of the bubble of charged particles around our sun
TEXT SIZE - +
Jessica Berman

The latest data from the twin Voyager spacecrafts suggest the outer edge of the solar system is not smooth but filled with giant magnetic bubbles.  Scientists say the turbulent bubbles are the result of the interaction between the Sun’s magnetic field and material expelled from other stars in the galaxy.  

If you could see the bubbles contained in the invisible magnetic field, scientists say they would look like giant sausages, approximately 160 million kilometers across.

Detected by an instrument on board the Voyager space probes that measures energetic particles, scientists say the bubbles are formed when the so-called solar wind, a stream of charged particles from the Sun, trails outward to the edge of the solar system and twists as a result of the Sun’s rotation, interacting with material from stars on the other side of the divide.

Using a new computer model to analyze the data, astronomers say the solar magnetic field is broken up at the boundary with intergalactic space into the turbulent, bubble-like structures.

Astronomer James Drake of the University of Maryland likened the foamy bubbles to water coming out of the jets of a Jacuzzi tub.

“Those jets are very bubbly," said Drake. "Well, this thing is very bubbly.  Like the most bubbly parts of your Jacuzzi.  So, it’s very bubbly indeed as far as we can tell.”

But experts say the Sun’s magnetic field is very weak at the edge of the solar system and the bubbles are not so turbulent as to disrupt the Voyager spacecrafts which entered the final layer of the solar system, called the heliosphere, in 2007 and 2008.  

Launched in 1977, the 33-year-old space probes are now more than 14 billion kilometers from home, traveling a distance of approximately 450 million kilometers per year at different locations inside the heliosheath, the outer ring of the immense magnetic bubble in the solar system created by the Sun’s magnetic field.

NASA scientists say the twin space probes, the most distant observatories operated by the space agency, are good for at least another five years.

Boston University astronomer Merav Opher says scientists are now trying to figure out what’s on the other side of the heliopause, the boundary between our solar system and intergalactic space.

“This is a complete new area," said Opher. "We have never been near the heliopause before.  And now it will be complicated because you have an interspace full of your bubbles and you are going towards the other side.  So how this interface will be we don’t really know.”

The article describing the discovery of magnetic space bubbles by the Viking spacecrafts is published this week in the Astrophysical Journal.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid