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Voyagers Are Now In the Heliosheath

In Samuel R. Delaney's The Ballad of Beta-2, the logs of the spaceships discuss going from normal space into "the sand", where particle counts creep higher and higher and endanger the ships shielding, and thus the occupants.

NASA now reports a similar phenomenon at the edge of our solar system.

"Specifically, the probes measured abrupt changes in the flow of particles, such as electrons, from one patch of space to another. "What really struck us were the sudden differences between what Voyager 1 was seeing and what Voyager 2 was seeing," said study co-author James Drake of the University of Maryland.

"We had to explain, well, why is that?" The best explanation, according to subsequent computer models, is that the probes are flying through a frothy field of magnetic bubbles. These bubbles act as particle traps. So particle readings increase while the spacecraft are inside one, then drop when they exit. These bubbles form as a result of the interaction between the sun's rotation and its magnetic field.

As the sun spins, its magnetic field churns and twists out in the heliosheath. The folded field bunches up on itself, causing lines of magnetic force to crisscross and reconnect, forming the sea of bubbles."


(Heliosheath structure
Old and new views of the heliosheath.
Red and blue spirals are the gracefully curving
magnetic field lines of orthodox models.
New data from Voyager add a magnetic
froth (inset) to the mix. Credit: NASA)

Thanks to an anonymous reader who sent this story in - well done!. Via NASA.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/9/2011)

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