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Feb 23 2015

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Voyager-1, is there anything it can’t do?

Well, it can completely change our understanding of the heliosphere.

One of two identical twin spacecraft launched in 1977, Voyager 1 in 2012 became the first man-made object to exit the heliosphere and plunge into interstellar space, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

As the spacecraft approached and then crossed this boundary, “Voyager had very bizarre observations,” remarks Opher. It did not register the anticipated major change in the direction of magnetic field as it made the crossing.

Struggling to explain these unexpected results, the team initially focused on the nose of the heliosphere rather than its tail. “The Voyagers had a flashlight in the kitchen, and nobody was looking in the attic,” she remarks.

“We noticed, while studying the draping of the galaxy’s magnetic field around the nose, that the heliosphere was much shorter than we anticipated.” When she ran a much larger numerical simulation that continued to follow the flow of the solar wind, she unveiled the unforeseen two-tailed shape.

The yellow shape in this figure is the heliopause, the boundary between the heliosphere and the local interstellar medium. The sun sits at the center of this large bubble, but is too small to be seen here. The gray lines are the solar magnetic field lines and the red lines are the interstellar magnetic field. Image courtesy M. Opher.

Is it me, or does the heliopause look like something you’d see under a microscope from some pond water or something. Are we fractals all the way down?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/02/23/voyager-1-is-there-anything-it-cant-do/

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