Although never actually observed, it has long been assumed that as our Solar System careers through the Universe, the heliosphere, or solar bubble, has a tail trailing behind it like a comet's. For the first time, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer
(IBEX), which was launched back in 2008
, has mapped the boundaries of this tail, revealing it is shaped like a four-leaf clover.
Over the course of a year, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) scans the entire sky. During February, its instruments are aligned in the correct direction to intercept atoms that have crossed the boundary from interstellar space into our solar system, become caught by the Sun's gravity and slung around the star. This has now allowed IBEX to capture the most complete glimpse of the material that travels in the galactic wind in the space between star systems. The results indicate this material doesn't look like the same material that makes up our solar system.
Move over Google Maps, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX
) spacecraft has given scientists the tools to construct the first comprehensive sky map of our solar system and where it resides in the Milky Way galaxy. NASA says the new view will change the way researchers study the interaction between our galaxy and sun.
NASA has launched the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, which will observe the edge of our solar system from a 200,000-mile Earth orbit and determine whether or not we’re... err, doomed. Over the next two years, the 23-inch high octagonal craft will study the area of space where solar wind hits the wider galaxy – hopefully it will also find out why the solar wind, which shields us from harmful cosmic rays, has decreased by 25% in the last ten years.