Solar system caught in an interstellar tempest

Article in New Scientist Sept. 6, 2013

The solar system is travelling through much stormier skies than we thought, and might even be about to pop out of the huge gas cloud we have been gliding through for at least 45,000 years. That’s the implication of a multi-decade survey of the interstellar wind buffeting the solar system, which has revealed an unexpected change in the wind’s direction…. Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1239925

Quotes by Robert Meier in New Scientist article

“It’s possible we’re seeing a structure that is not necessarily an edge,” saysRobert Meier, now at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, who helped make the original STP 72-1 measurements. “A change of direction of flow in a stream could mean you’re near the bank, or that there’s a rock in the middle of the stream or something like that. It’s always harder to figure out what’s going on when you’re in the middle.”

Meier adds that there might be an issue in comparing different types of data. None of the more recent spacecraft have looked at the scattered UV light created as atoms from the cloud interact with solar particles. Instead most made direct measurements of the helium atoms. It would help make the case if we could create modern maps of the UV light and compare those with the 1972 readings from the DoD satellite. “Getting backscatter measurements in this modern era, that would be pretty definitive,” he says. “Either they’re both going to get the same direction or they’re not.

Solar system traveling through clouds

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