Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Slow bow shock ahead of the sun's heliosphere predicted

Date:
July 18, 2013
Source:
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences
Summary:
A new study indicates that a bow shock (a dynamic boundary between sun’s heliosphere and the interstellar medium) is highly likely. These findings challenge recent predictions that no such bow shock would be encountered.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) captured this image of what appears to be a fast bow shock around a very young star in the Great Nebula in Orion. New research predicts a comparable slow bow shock ahead of the sun’s heliosphere.
Credit: NASA/Hubble Heritage Team

A new study co-authored by Boston University astronomers indicates that a bow shock (a dynamic boundary between sun's heliosphere and the interstellar medium) is highly likely. These findings challenge recent predictions that no such bow shock would be encountered.

The researchers base their expectation of finding a bow shock on a new magneto-hydrodynamic simulation that confirmed a theoretically expected slow bow shock (SBS) ahead of the heliosphere. The new research supports the idea that the sun, like a boat moving through water, forms a crescent-shaped shockwave as it moves through interstellar gas. The study was published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

In the current study, Bertalan Zieger, lead author and research scientist at BU's Center for Space Physics, and colleagues predict that a slow bow shock should exist ahead of the heliosphere. This challenges some recent models that argued no bow shock at all would be found. Those studies, which used the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) satellite to measure the speed of interstellar particles entering the solar system near the edge of the heliosphere, suggested that the sun was moving too slowly through interstellar space (at 52,000 miles an hour) to create a bow shock.

However, the bow shock that they refer to is what is called a fast bow shock. The new study shows that a slow type is possible: IBEX observations also indicate that the interstellar wind is slower than the fast and the intermediate wave, but faster than the slow wave. Using these observations, the researchers conducted a magneto-hydrodynamic simulation that predicts a slow bow shock should exist in front of the heliosphere.

These projections could soon be confirmed by actual data: Voyager 1 is heading toward the slow bow shock, while Voyager 2 is not, which means that the two spacecraft are expected to encounter different interstellar plasma populations beyond the heliopause. Confirmation of the existence of a bow shock could have important implications for our understanding of the nature of the interstellar magnetic field that the Voyagers will encounter ahead of the heliopshere, including whether the slow bow shock filters the influx of high-energy cosmic rays into the heliosphere.

The following authors contributed to this study: B. Zieger and M. Opher, Center for Space Physics, Boston University; N. A. Schwadron, Center for Space Physics, Boston University, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire, and Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas; D. J. McComas, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas; Physics and Astronomy Department, University of Texas, San Antonio; G. Tσth, Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences, University of Michigan.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. Zieger, M. Opher, N. A. Schwadron, D. J. McComas, G. Tσth. A slow bow shock ahead of the heliosphere. Geophysical Research Letters, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/grl.50576

Cite This Page:

Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Slow bow shock ahead of the sun's heliosphere predicted." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130718111325.htm>.
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. (2013, July 18). Slow bow shock ahead of the sun's heliosphere predicted. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130718111325.htm
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Slow bow shock ahead of the sun's heliosphere predicted." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130718111325.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins