Thursday, July 11, 2013

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) Shows Our Solar System's Tail

Like comets, it has been assumed by scientists for many years that our solar system has a tail.  The tail, or heliosphere, is caused by particles streaming off the back of the system as it journeys through space.  In a paper published today in The Astrophysical Journal, scientists have been able to map out the tail of our solar system using the initial three years of data from NASA's IBEX.

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer has been able to collect data from neutral atoms colliding with our heliosphere to give scientists a picture of the tail's shape.  Before the IBEX, scientists could only use models to theorize about it.  The shape of our heliosphere is similar to a four-leaf clover, however the full length of it is unknown.

Image Credit: NASA/HST/R.Casalegno/GALEX

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