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IBEX Scientists Isolate Mysterious "Ribbon" of Energy and Particles
08-11-2011, 10:26 PM, (This post was last modified: 08-11-2011, 10:28 PM by Bull Medicine.)
IBEX Scientists Isolate Mysterious "Ribbon" of Energy and Particles
Quote:IBEX Scientists Isolate Mysterious "Ribbon" of Energy and Particles that Wraps Around Solar System Boundary

March 30, 2011

DURHAM, N.H. – In a paper to be published in the April 10, 2011, issue of The Astrophysical Journal, scientists on NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission, including lead author Nathan Schwadron and others from the University of New Hampshire, isolate and resolve the mysterious “ribbon” of energy and particles the spacecraft discovered in the heliosphere – the huge bubble that surrounds our solar system and protects us from galactic cosmic rays.

The finding, which overturns 40 years of theory, provides insight into the fundamental structure of the heliosphere, which in turn helps scientists understand similar structures or “astrospheres” that surround other star systems throughout the cosmos.

The ribbon of energy was captured using ultra-high sensitive cameras that image energetic neutral atoms (instead of photons of light) to create maps of the boundary region between our solar system and the rest of our galaxy.

Notes Schwadron, an associate professor at UNH’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and department of physics, “Isolating and separating the ribbon from the IBEX maps was like pulling the drapes from our window to discover the landscape at the edge of the solar system.”

Of the singular images the IBEX mission has been able to achieve, lead scientist David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) says, “These maps are very rich scientifically and are critical in helping scientists understand how our space environment is controlled by the galactic medium. They provide the first images of our solar system’s boundaries, which control the access to potentially harmful galactic cosmic rays as well as all other matter from deep space.”

The most energetic galactic cosmic rays penetrate even the powerful magnetic fields closest to Earth and eventually collide and interact with Earth’s atmosphere. The direct or indirect effects of these cosmic rays on the Earth system, including our biosphere, remain poorly understood and are often highly controversial.


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