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Voyager Finds Magnetic Foam at Solar Systems Edge

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Uploaded on Jun 9, 2011

NASA PROBES SUGGEST MAGNETIC BUBBLES RESIDE AT SOLAR SYSTEM EDGE

WASHINGTON -- Observations from NASA's Voyager spacecraft, humanity's
farthest deep space sentinels, suggest the edge of our solar system
may not be smooth, but filled with a turbulent sea of magnetic
bubbles.

While using a new computer model to analyze Voyager data, scientists
found the sun's distant magnetic field is made up of bubbles
approximately 100 million miles wide. The bubbles are created when
magnetic field lines reorganize. The new model suggests the field
lines are broken up into self-contained structures disconnected from
the solar magnetic field. The findings are described in the June 9
edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

Like Earth, our sun has a magnetic field with a north pole and a south
pole. The field lines are stretched outward by the solar wind or a
stream of charged particles emanating from the star that interacts
with material expelled from others in our corner of the Milky Way
galaxy.

The Voyager spacecraft, nearly 10 billion miles away from Earth, are
traveling in a boundary region. In that area, the solar wind and
magnetic field are affected by material expelled from other stars in
our corner of the Milky Way galaxy.

"The sun's magnetic field extends all the way to the edge of the solar
system," said astronomer Merav Opher of Boston University. "Because
the sun spins, its magnetic field becomes twisted and wrinkled, a bit
like a ballerina's skirt. Far, far away from the sun, where the
Voyagers are, the folds of the skirt bunch up."

Understanding the structure of the sun's magnetic field will allow
scientists to explain how galactic cosmic rays enter our solar system
and help define how the star interacts with the rest of the galaxy.

So far, much of the evidence for the existence of the bubbles
originates from an instrument aboard the spacecraft that measures
energetic particles. Investigators are studying more information and
hoping to find signatures of the bubbles in the Voyager magnetic
field data.

"We are still trying to wrap our minds around the implications of the
findings," said University of Maryland physicist Jim Drake, one of
Opher's colleagues.

Launched in 1977, the Voyager twin spacecraft have been on a 33-year
journey. They are en route to reach the edge of interstellar space.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., built the
spacecraft and continues to operate them. The Voyager missions are a
part of the Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the
Heliophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in
Washington.

To view supporting images about the research, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/sunearth




--

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http://sunspotwatch.com/

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Source: NASA / NASA Heliophysics and the Science Visualization Studio

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