However, Voyager 2 took a different path, entering this region, called the heliosheath, on August 30, 2007. Because Voyager 2 crossed the heliosheath boundary, called the solar wind termination shock, about 10 billion miles away from Voyager 1 and almost a billion miles closer to the sun, it confirmed that our solar system is “squashed” or “dented”– that the bubble carved into interstellar space by the solar wind is not perfectly round. Where Voyager 2 made its crossing, the bubble is pushed in closer to the sun by the local interstellar magnetic field.
“Voyager 2 continues its journey of discovery, crossing the termination shock multiple times as it entered the outermost layer of the giant heliospheric bubble surrounding the Sun and joined Voyager 1 in the last leg of the race to interstellar space.” said Voyager Project Scientist Dr. Edward Stone of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.
The solar wind is a thin gas of electrically charged particles (plasma) blown into space by the sun. The solar wind blows in all directions, carving a bubble into interstellar space that extends past the orbit of Pluto. This bubble is called the heliosphere, and Voyager 1 was the first spacecraft to explore its outer layer, when it crossed into the heliosheath in December 2004. As Voyager 1 made this historic passage, it encountered the shock wave that surrounds our solar system called the solar wind termination shock, where the solar wind is abruptly slowed by pressure from the gas and magnetic field in interstellar space.
Even though Voyager 2 is the second spacecraft to cross the shock, it is scientifically exciting for a couple of reasons. The Voyager 2 spacecraft has a working Plasma Science instrument that can directly measure the velocity, density and temperature of the solar wind. This instrument is no longer working on Voyager 1 and estimates of the solar wind speed had to be made indirectly. Secondly, Voyager 1 may have had only a single shock crossing and it happened during a data gap. But Voyager 2 had at least five shock crossings over a couple of days (the shock “sloshes” back and forth like surf on a beach, allowing multiple crossings) and three of them are clearly in the data. They show us an unusual shock.
In a normal shock wave, fast-moving material slows down and forms a denser, hotter region as it encounters an obstacle. However, Voyager 2 found a much lower temperature beyond the shock than was predicted. This probably indicates that the energy is being transferred to cosmic ray particles that were accelerated to high speeds at the shock.
"The important new data describing the termination shock are still being pondered, but it is clear that Voyager has once again surprised us," said Dr. Eric Christian, Voyager Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington.
The two Voyager spacecraft will be the only source of local observations of this distant but highly interesting region for years to come. But in the summer of 2008, NASA will be launching a mission specifically designed to globally image the termination shock and heliosheath remotely from Earth orbit. The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), led by Dr. David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, will use energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) to create all-sky maps at various energies of the interaction of the heliosphere with interstellar space. ENAs are formed when energetic electrically-charged particles “steal” an electron from another particle. Once neutral, they travel straight, unaffected by the solar magnetic field. IBEX will detect some of the particles that happen to be headed towards the Earth, and the number and energy of the particles coming from all different directions will tell us much more about the overall structure of the interaction between the heliosphere and interstellar space.
Results on the Voyager 2 shock crossing from the entire Voyager science team are being presented at the Fall 2007 meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The Voyagers were built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., which continues to operate both spacecraft.
Bill Steigerwald | EurekAlert!
Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences