Voyager spacecraft make an important discovery

Physicist Nir Shaviv has shown a correlation between the ice ages and the passing of the solar system through the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy, during which the number of cosmic rays reaching the Earth is substantially increased. The following article is interesting in that regard.

“The solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud that physics says should not exist. In the Dec. 24th issue of Nature, a team of scientists reveal how NASA’s Voyager spacecraft have solved the mystery.

“Using data from Voyager, we have discovered a strong magnetic field just outside the solar system,” explains lead author Merav Opher, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from George Mason University. “This magnetic field holds the interstellar cloud together and solves the long-standing puzzle of how it can exist at all.” …

Astronomers call the cloud we’re running into now the Local Interstellar Cloud or “Local Fluff” for short. …

The Fluff is held at bay just beyond the edge of the solar system by the sun’s magnetic field, which is inflated by solar wind into a magnetic bubble more than 10 billion km wide. Called the “heliosphere,” this bubble acts as a shield that helps protect the inner solar system from galactic cosmic rays and interstellar clouds. …

The size of the heliosphere is determined by a balance of forces: Solar wind inflates the bubble from the inside while the Local Fluff compresses it from the outside. …

The fact that the Fluff is strongly magnetized means that other clouds in the galactic neighborhood could be, too. Eventually, the solar system will run into some of them, and their strong magnetic fields could compress the heliosphere even more than it is compressed now. Additional compression could allow more cosmic rays to reach the inner solar system, possibly affecting terrestrial climate and the ability of astronauts to travel safely through space.” “Voyager Makes an Interstellar Discovery” h/t Russ Steele


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