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Voyager Satellites Find Magnetic Bubbles at Edge of Solar System

The sun's magnetic field spins opposite directions on the north and south poles. These oppositely pointing magnetic fields are separated by a layer of current called the heliospheric current sheet. Due to the tilt of the magnetic axis in relation to the axis of rotation of the Sun, the heliospheric current sheet flaps like a flag in the wind. The flapping current sheet separates regions of oppositely pointing magnetic field, called sectors. As the solar wind speed decreases past the termination shock, the sectors squeeze together, bringing regions of opposite magnetic field closer to each other. The Voyager spacecraft have now found that when the separation of sectors becomes very small, the sectored magnetic field breaks up into a sea of nested "magnetic bubbles" in a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection. The region of nested bubbles is carried by the solar wind to the north and south filling out the entire front region of the heliopause and the sector region in the heliosheath.

This discovery has prompted a complete revision of what the heliosheath region looks like. The smooth, streamlined look is gone, replaced with a bubbly, frothy outer layer.

For animations about the Voyager magnetic bubbles discovery, go here.

For More Information


Walt Feimer (HTSI): Lead Animator
Michael Lentz (UMBC): Animator
Chris Smith (HTSI): Animator
Tom Bridgman (GST): Animator
Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Video Editor
Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Narrator
Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Producer
Merav Opher (Boston University): Scientist
Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Writer
Karen Fox (ASI): Writer
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab

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This item is part of these series:
Voyager and the Heliopause
Narrated Movies
Goddard Shorts

Goddard TV Tape:
G2011-050 -- Voyager Magnetic Bubbles

SVS >> Heliosphere
SVS >> Magnetosphere
SVS >> Solar Wind
SVS >> Sun
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Sun-earth Interactions >> Solar Activity >> Cosmic Rays
SVS >> Heliopause
SVS >> Voyager
SVS >> Edited Feature
SVS >> Heliosheath
DLESE >> Narrated
SVS >> Cassini
SVS >> Sun >> Magnetic Field
NASA Science >> Sun
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons
NASA Science >> Universe

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version