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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest 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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid