Thursday, 11 July 2013

NASA Maps Solar System's Tail

Like a comet, the solar system has a tail. NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) has for the first time mapped out the structure of this tail, which is shaped like a four-leaf clover.

Scientists describe the tail, called the heliotail, based on the first three years of IBEX imagery in a paper published in the July 10 edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

Solar System Tail (splash)
A new video from NASA explores the solar system's comet-like tail. Play it
While telescopes have spotted such tails around other stars, it has been difficult to see whether our star produced one. The particles found in the tail -- and throughout the entire heliosphere, the region of space influenced by our sun -- do not shine, so they cannot be seen with conventional instruments.

"By examining the neutral atoms, IBEX has made the first observations of the heliotail," said David McComas, IBEX principal investigator at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and the paper's lead author. "Many models have suggested the heliotail might look like this or like that, but we have had no observations. We always drew pictures where the tail of the solar system just trailed off the page, since we couldn't even speculate about what it really looked like."

More - Link >>> http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/10jul_ibex/

Source: NASA Science News.

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