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IBEX Provides First View Of the Solar System's Tail

This page contains resources from the July 10, 2013 media briefing.

To watch the media briefing on YouTube, click here.

To view the web short on YouTube about this story, click here.

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, recently mapped the boundaries of the solar system's tail, called the heliotail. By combining observations from the first three years of IBEX imagery, scientists have mapped out a tail that shows a combination of fast and slow moving particles. The entire structure twisted, because it experiences the pushing and pulling of magnetic fields outside the solar system.


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Other multimedia items related to this story:
     IBEX Heliotail Observations (id 4087)
     NASA's IBEX Spacecraft Reveals New Observations of Interstellar Matter (id 10906)
     IBEX Maps Solar System's Tail (id 11306)
     Interstellar Boundry Explorer (IBEX) (id 20131)

High resolution still from animation of the heliotail - front view Credit: NASA    High resolution still from animation of the heliotail - front view

Credit: NASA

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High resolution still from animation of the heliotail - side view Credit: NASA    High resolution still from animation of the heliotail - side view

Credit: NASA

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Comet Hale-Bopp. Credit: NASA    Comet Hale-Bopp.

Credit: NASA

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An artist's concept of our heliosphere, which is a bubble in space created by the solar wind and solar magnetic field. Credit: NASA    An artist's concept of our heliosphere, which is a bubble in space created by the solar wind and solar magnetic field.

Credit: NASA

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The conditions necessary to make the heliosphere, namely the balance of an outward pushing stellar wind and the inward compression of surrounding interstellar gas is so common, that perhaps most stars have analogous structures, called astrospheres. Photographs of three such astrospheres are shown, as taken by various telescopes. Credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/SwRI    The conditions necessary to make the heliosphere, namely the balance of an outward pushing stellar wind and the inward compression of surrounding interstellar gas is so common, that perhaps most stars have analogous structures, called astrospheres. Photographs of three such astrospheres are shown, as taken by various telescopes.

Credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/SwRI



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Animation showing Heliotail solar winds. Credit: NASA This asset is available on another page. To view or download it, click here .    Animation showing Heliotail solar winds.

Credit: NASA

This asset is available on another page. To view or download it, click here.

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This animation shows a charged solar particle's path leaving the sun, while following the magnetic field lines out to the heliosheath. The solar particle hits a hydrogen atom, stealing its electron and becoming neutral. We then follow it until we see it hit one of IBEX's detectors. This asset is available on another page. To view or download it, click here .    This animation shows a charged solar particle's path leaving the sun, while following the magnetic field lines out to the heliosheath. The solar particle hits a hydrogen atom, stealing its electron and becoming neutral. We then follow it until we see it hit one of IBEX's detectors.

This asset is available on another page. To view or download it, click here.

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This graph depicts the fraction of high energy cosmic rays (greater than 100 MeV) that pass through the boundary of the solar system. 100% of them are present outside of the Bow Shock. There is a small dropoff in the number that make it through to the heliopause. More than 50% are stopped between the heliopause and termination shock, which is at approximately 100 AU. This leaves a fraction less than 25% to permeate to the inner solar system. Credit: Adler Planetarium/Chicago    This graph depicts the fraction of high energy cosmic rays (greater than 100 MeV) that pass through the boundary of the solar system. 100% of them are present outside of the Bow Shock. There is a small dropoff in the number that make it through to the heliopause. More than 50% are stopped between the heliopause and termination shock, which is at approximately 100 AU. This leaves a fraction less than 25% to permeate to the inner solar system.

Credit: Adler Planetarium/Chicago



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IBEX observations of spectral slope, where red and yellow indicate lower energy particles and green and blue higher energy ones. The central portion (circle) is looking down the heliotail and shows two lower energy “lobes” on the port and starboard sides and high energy regions at higher northern and southern latitudes. Figure taken from McComas et al. [ApJ, 2013].    IBEX observations of spectral slope, where red and yellow indicate lower energy particles and green and blue higher energy ones. The central portion (circle) is looking down the heliotail and shows two lower energy “lobes” on the port and starboard sides and high energy regions at higher northern and southern latitudes.

Figure taken from McComas et al. [ApJ, 2013].

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Schematic diagram of heliotail as the interstellar magnetic field that surrounds our heliosphere squeezes and rotates the tail structure as seen in the IBEX observations. Figure taken from McComas et al. [ApJ, 2013].    Schematic diagram of heliotail as the interstellar magnetic field that surrounds our heliosphere squeezes and rotates the tail structure as seen in the IBEX observations.

Figure taken from McComas et al. [ApJ, 2013].

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The solar journey through space is carrying us through a cluster of very low density interstellar clouds. Right now the Sun is inside of a cloud that is so tenuous that the interstellar gas detected by IBEX is as sparse as a handful of air stretched over a column that is hundreds of light years long. These clouds are identified by their motions. Labels. Credit: NASA/Adler/U. Chicago/Wesleyan    The solar journey through space is carrying us through a cluster of very low density interstellar clouds. Right now the Sun is inside of a cloud that is so tenuous that the interstellar gas detected by IBEX is as sparse as a handful of air stretched over a column that is hundreds of light years long. These clouds are identified by their motions. Labels.

Credit: NASA/Adler/U. Chicago/Wesleyan

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Short URL to This Page:http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?11301
Animation Number:11301
Completed:2013-07-09
Animators:Michael Lentz (USRA) (Lead)
 Walt Feimer (HTSI)
 Tom Bridgman (GST)
Producer:Genna Duberstein (USRA)
Scientists:Dave McComas (SwRI)
 Eric Christian Ph.D. (NASA/HQ)
 Nathan Schwadron (University of New Hampshire)
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
 
Keywords:
SVS >> Heliosphere
SVS >> Magnetic Fields
SVS >> Plasma
SVS >> Solar Wind
SVS >> Sun
SVS >> IBEX
SVS >> Heliophysics
SVS >> Heliotail
 
 


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Many of our multimedia items use the GCMD keywords. These 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 8.0.0.0.0

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