Thursday, June 27, 2013

Voyager 1's Weird Discovery (Picture of the Day: 6/27/13)

The most up-to-date model of the solar system's edge. Source

Voyager 1, the farthest man-made object from Earth, has discovered something that scientists weren't expecting. Our sun throws off a constant stream of charged particles known as solar wind. This solar wind radiates through our solar system in a giant sphere that theoretically protects us from much of the galaxy's cosmic rays. Furthermore, these charged particles extend the Sun's magnetic field, which is thought to be inverted 60 degrees to the galaxy's magnetic field. Recently, Voyager 1 reached the edge of the solar wind-sphere, and the prevalence of galactic cosmic rays increased as expected. The interesting thing is that the direction of the cosmic rays was strongly biased in one direction, instead of coming equally from all directions as was expected. Even more curious, the magnetic field around Voyager 1 didn't change, meaning that it is theoretically still under the influence of the Sun's magnetic field. The debate about exactly what all of this means will probably rage for a long time to come, but we could still see Voyager 1 run into the galactic magnetic field in a few days, or a few years.
For more information, check out this article.

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