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Scientists Confirm The Discovery Of A Mysterious Interstellar Space Boundary

Scientists Confirm The Discovery Of A Mysterious Interstellar Space Boundary 90

NASA scientists behind the Voyager mission are on the brink of something huge – literally. Recent findings from the Voyager 2 probe confirm there is a distinct – albeit mysterious – boundary known as the heliopause between the local space we are in and interstellar space.

Spacecraft Voyager 2 joined its sister craft Voyager 1 on November 5, 2018, when it passed through the interstellar medium. It’s only now that researchers are learning about the space environment the craft is currently moving through.

“This is a watershed moment in our exploration of space: we have for the first time left the confines of ‘home’ and are taking our very first tentative steps into the interstellar space – the Milky Way galaxy of which we are a part,” explained NASA astrophysicist Jeffrey Hayes to IFLScience. “That’s an amazing distance to come in only 62 years, since the launch of the first satellite. Who knows what the next 62 will bring?”

The Voyager 2 probe was launched by NASA on August 20, 1977, and is the second spacecraft to enter interstellar space to study the edge of our solar system. Five studies released this week each identifies findings from one of Voyager 2’s five operating science instruments. Altogether, these help us to understand the “cosmic shoreline”, where our Sun ends and the “vast ocean of interstellar space begins,” writes NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Scientists Confirm The Discovery Of A Mysterious Interstellar Space Boundary 91
Data from Voyager 2 has helped further characterize the structure of the heliosphere, structure of the heliosphere — the wind sock-shaped region created by the sun’s wind as it extends to the boundary of the solar system. NASA/JPL

“Inside is the space we live in, which is the very extended influence of the Sun and the solar wind that it generates, and outside is a region that is not under that same influence,” said Hayes. “Both Voyagers found this to be the case. The original model was that the solar wind would just gradually fade away until one was in the interstellar medium; clearly that’s not the case.”

“The heliopause acts as a somewhat porous boundary that only allows some particles to traverse it,” said Hayes. “Because we have only very recently passed through it – in 2012 with Voyager 1, and now with Voyager 2, there are still a lot of aspects of this we don’t understand.”

Voyager 2 also observed that the magnetic field outside of the heliopause is slightly stronger than measurements taken by Voyager 1, which seems to indicate that the interstellar magnetic field changes over small distances. Unexpectedly, charged particles carried by solar wind also appear to “leak” out into interstellar space.

Before Voyager 2 took the first direct measurements of interstellar space, scientists had to infer findings with data taken from a spacecraft much closer to Earth. Hayes said that the current observations are “totally new” and will take time to understand fully.

“In terms of space exploration, it means that we have only barely scratched the surface of what it means to be in interstellar space,” said Hayes.

“All told, we have entered a new era of exploration that is posing as many new questions as it has answered our older ones,” said Hayes, adding that it has taken some 42 years to travel about 143 Astronomical Units (or 143 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun) and only just now have we reached the beginning of interstellar space. If humans as a species hope to explore space, Hayes said we must either learn to be patient or learn to travel faster.

NASA’s Heliophysics Division is set to launch the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission by 2024, carrying with it instruments designed to follow up on the discoveries made by the Voyager probes. In the 2030s, Hayes said that NASA is studying an Interstellar Probe concept mission that would travel out 10 times the distance that the Voyagers are at now.

Scientists Confirm The Discovery Of A Mysterious Interstellar Space Boundary 92
An artist concept depicting one of NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft. NASA/JPL

Source www.iflscience.com

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Space

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 99
Photo: (Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC))

To us, the Sun alone seems perfectly normal, but our solar system is actually a strange exception.

Most stars in the Milky Way galaxy have at least one companion star. In a system 1,800 light-years away, astronomers have finally confirmed the existence of a gas giant planet orbiting stars in a triple star system.

Called KOI-5, the system is located in the constellation Cygnus, and the exoplanet was confirmed ten years after it was first detected by the Kepler space telescope.

In fact, the planet – now known as KOI-5Ab – was discovered by Kepler when it began operations back in 2009.

“KOI-5Ab was dropped because it was difficult and we had thousands of other candidates,” astronomer David Siardi of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute said.

“There were lighter dives than the KOI-5Ab, and every day we learned something new from Kepler, so the KOI-5 was almost forgotten.”

Exoplanet hunters tend to avoid the complexities of multi-star systems; of the more than 4,300 exoplanets confirmed to date, less than 10 percent are multi-star systems, although such systems dominate the galaxy. As a result, little is known about the properties of exoplanets in multi-star systems compared to those orbiting a lone star.

After Kepler’s discovery, Chardy and other astronomers used ground-based telescopes such as the Palomar Observatory, Keck Observatory, and the Gemini North Telescope to study the system. By 2014, they had identified two companion stars, KOI-5B and KOI-5C.

Scientists were able to establish that the planet KOI-5Ab, is a gas giant that is about half the mass of Saturn and 7 times the size of Earth, and is in a very close five-day orbit around KOI-5A. KOI-5A and KOI-5B, both of roughly the same mass as the Sun, form a relatively close binary system with an orbital period of about 30 years.

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 100

A third star, KOI-5C, orbits the binary system at a much greater distance, with a period of about 400 years – slightly longer than Pluto’s 248-year orbit.

“By studying this system in more detail, perhaps we can understand how planets are created in the universe.”

The discovery was announced at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Space

Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 101
Photo: YouTube

Science can be compared to an artist painting what he has never seen, or to a writer describing other people’s travels: objects that he has never seen, places where he has never been. Sometimes such scientific “arts” turn out to be beautiful and interesting, but most of them will forever remain only theories, because they are beyond human capabilities.

In fact, science has the right only to speculate: how our universe appeared, how old it is, how many stars and other objects it contains.

Universe model

Why the universe does not fit into science 102

How many stars are there in the sky?

With an unarmed eye, a person can see about nine thousand stars in the sky in one cloudless and moonless night. And armed with binoculars or a telescope, much more – up to several million. However, this is much less than their true number in the universe. Indeed, only in our one galaxy (the Milky Way) there are about 400 billion stars. The exact amount, of course, is not known to science. And the visible universe contains about 170 billion galaxies.

It is worth clarifying that scientists can see the universe 46 billion light years deep in all directions. And the visible (observable) universe includes the space accessible to our eyes from the moment of the Big Explosion. In other words, only this (accessible to human perception) space science refers to our universe. Science does not consider everything that follows.

It is believed that there are supposedly a ceptillion (10 to 24 degrees) stars in our universe. These are theoretical calculations based on the approximate size and age of the universe. The origin of the universe is explained by the Big Bang theory. This is why the universe is constantly expanding and the more time passes, the more complex the universe and its components become.

Why the universe does not fit into science 103

It is not entirely correct to consider and perceive this scientific theory “head-on”. Scientists always claim that that explosion was not exactly an explosion, and the point that exploded was not the only one. After all, it was everywhere, because space did not exist then. And in general – everything happened quite differently from what is described in the Big Bang theory, but all other descriptions of the origin of the universe are even more incredible and inaccurate.

Separate but interconnected

That which is beyond the reach of human perception is usually discarded by science, or recognized as non-existent. Recognizing one thing, science does not want to recognize the existence of the other, although everything in our world is interconnected and is not able to exist separately – by itself.

Each object of the universe is a part of it much more than an independent, separate object.

Any person, like any material object of our world, consists of components: organs, cells, molecules, atoms. And each of its constituent parts can represent the whole world. Separate, and at the same time connected with all the others.

However, science, as a rule, perceives all the components of the universe – people, animals, plants, objects, the Earth, the Sun, other planets and stars – as separate subjects, thereby limiting itself.

Why the universe does not fit into science 104

Even what is considered the visible universe, one of the atoms of which could be called our solar system, is not subject to the boundaries of human perception. But perhaps the atom is an exaggeration, and our solar system is not even an atom, but one of its elements!

How, being so far from the truth, can one reason about something with the degree of probability with which science tries to reason about the origin of the universe?

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Space

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars 105

The red planet sways from side to side like a whirligig when it loses speed. The new study allowed scientists to notice that the poles of Mars deviate slightly from the axis of rotation of the planet. On average, they move 10 cm from the center with a period of 200 days.

Such changes are called the Chandler Oscillations  – after the American astronomer Seth Chandler, who discovered them in 1891. Previously, they were only seen on Earth. It is known that the displacement of the poles of rotation of our planet occurs with a period of 433 days, while the amplitude reaches 15 meters. There is no exact answer why this is happening. It is believed that the fluctuations are influenced by processes in the ocean and the Earth’s atmosphere.

Chandler’s wobbles on Mars are equally perplexing. The authors of the study discovered them by comparing data from 18 years of studying the planet. The information was obtained thanks to three spacecraft that orbit the Red Planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor. 

Since Mars has no oceans, it is likely that the Red Planet’s wobbly rotation is due to changes in atmospheric pressure. This is the first explanation that researchers have shared. In the future, there should be new details about the fluctuations that have so interested the scientific community.

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