Published on Nov 12, 2018
The solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud that physics says should not exist. "Using data from Voyager, we have discovered a strong magnetic field just outside the solar system," explains lead author Merav Opher, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from George Mason University. Astronomers call the cloud we're running into now the Local Interstellar Cloud or "Local Fluff" for short. It's about 30 light years across and as hot as the surface of the sun. It contains a wispy mixture of hydrogen and helium atoms at a temperature of 6000 Celsius. For comparison a hundred degrees Celsius boils water!!! The existential mystery of the Fluff has to do with its surroundings. About 10 million years ago, a cluster of supernovas exploded nearby, creating a giant bubble of million-degree gas. The Fluff is completely surrounded by this high-pressure supernova exhaust and should be crushed or dispersed by it. The fact that the Fluff is strongly magnetized means that other clouds in the galactic neighborhood could be, too. Eventually, the solar system will run into some of them, and their strong magnetic fields could compress the heliosphere even more than it is compressed now. Additional compression could allow more cosmic rays to reach the inner solar system and the ability of astronauts to travel safely through space. On the other hand, astronauts wouldn't have to travel so far because interstellar space would be closer than ever. These events would play out on time scales of tens to hundreds of thousands of years, which is how long it takes for the solar system to move from one cloud to the next. Read more here: https://www.gaia.com/article/are-inte... http://www.tmgnow.com/repository/glob... https://science.nasa.gov/science-news... https://science.nasa.gov/science-news...