top of page
  • Writer's picturePrabhjot Singh Maan

Unexplained Ripples detected at the edge of the Solar System

Researchers have long been interested in the boundary of our solar system, and are largely dependent on Voyager 1, 2 missions for data.

At the boundary between our solar system and interstellar space, researchers have discovered mysterious formations and ripples.

After the heliosphere, where the sun's influence begins to decrease, interstellar space begins.

According to a recent study, the heliosphere's edge fluctuates in ways that are both fascinating and potentially contentious.

The barrier between the heliosphere and the interstellar medium, known as the heliopause, was discovered to be rippling and producing unexpectedly oblique angles.

The research was carried out following a month-long solar wind dynamic pressure peak that occurred in the area in 2014.

The heliosphere's structural asymmetries were quite noticeable.

The structural variations were calculated up to ten astronomical units (AU), 1 AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun. (Photo: Nasa)

“In early 2017, we noticed a brightening of Energetic Neutral Atom (ENA) emissions in IBEX data coming from a small part of the sky, centered about 20 degrees below the ’nose’ of the heliosphere. This brightening first showed up at the highest ENA energies we could observe,” lead researcher Zirnstein told Vice in an email.

Researchers discovered after analysing the data that the heliosphere's surface is deformed by enormous ripples that arise at an unusually oblique (or slanted) angle.

At lower ENA energies, the emission area began to appear and spread out across the sky.

We were aware that this had to be a result of a significant change in solar wind pressure, which is a significant determinant of ENA emissions from the heliosphere's outermost regions.

The first brightening point spread asymmetrically across the sky and was not focused on the 'nose,' which prompted research into this behaviour to find out why.

Zirnstein also spoke to Vice.

One astronomical unit (AU) is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, and the structural variations were computed up to ten AU.

Scientists speculate that "there seems to be a missing driving force for this asymmetry that is tied to the solar wind and its interaction with the interstellar medium" despite the fact that they do not yet fully grasp what is creating these ripples.

The Voyager 1, 2 missions, the only human-made probes that have penetrated interstellar space, are significantly responsible for the current understanding of the border of our solar system, which has long been of interest to researchers.

“The Voyager spacecraft provides the only direct, in situ measurement of the locations of these boundaries. But only at one point in space and time. So, comparing our results, which were observed at a different time in the solar cycle than when Voyager 1 or 2 crossed the boundaries, made it complicated. The locations of the HTS surface compared well with Voyager 1 and 2, but what was most surprising was the [heliopause] surface", he added.

The group is currently watching for another significant change in solar wind pressure, which is predicted to occur during the current solar cycle.

They are eager to use the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), which will be deployed by NASA in 2025, to study the heliosphere.

Edited by: Prabhjot Singh Maan ( LinkedIn ).


bottom of page