Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

IBEX spacecraft measures changes in the direction of interstellar winds buffeting our solar system

Date:
September 5, 2013
Source:
Southwest Research Institute
Summary:
Neutral interstellar atoms are flowing into the solar system from a different direction than previously observed.

Earth and sun. Neutral interstellar atoms are flowing into the solar system from a different direction than previously observed.
Credit: Argus / Fotolia

Data from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft reveal that neutral interstellar atoms are flowing into the solar system from a different direction than previously observed.

Interstellar atoms flow past Earth as the solar system passes through the surrounding interstellar cloud at 23 kilometers per second (50,000 miles per hour). The latest IBEX measurements of the interstellar wind direction were discovered to differ from those made by the Ulysses spacecraft in the 1990s. That difference led the IBEX team to compare the IBEX measurements to data gathered by 11 spacecraft between 1972 and 2011. Statistical testing of Earth-orbiting and interplanetary spacecraft data showed that, over the past 40 years, the longitude of the interstellar helium wind has changed by 6.8 2.4 degrees.

"We concluded it's highly likely that the direction of the interstellar wind has changed over the past 40 years. It's also highly unlikely that the direction of the interstellar helium wind has remained constant," says Dr. Priscilla Frisch, lead author of the study and a senior scientist in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago.

"We think the change in wind direction could be explained by turbulence in the interstellar cloud around the Sun," she says.

The spacecraft data used for this study were gathered using three methods to measure the neutral interstellar helium wind direction: IBEX and Ulysses provided direct in situ measurements of the neutral wind; the earliest measurements from the 1970s used fluorescence of solar extreme ultraviolet radiation of the helium atoms near the Sun; and measurements also were included of the helium flow direction from "pickup ions," neutral particles in the solar system that become ionized near the Sun and join the solar wind.

"This result is really stunning," says Dr. Dave McComas, IBEX principal investigator, assistant vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute, and an author on the paper. "Previously we thought the very local interstellar medium was very constant, but these results show just how dynamic the solar system's interaction is."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Southwest Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. C. Frisch, M. Bzowski, G. Livadiotis, D. J. McComas, E. Moebius, H.- R. Mueller, W. R. Pryor, N. A. Schwadron, J. M. Sokol, J. V. Vallerga, J. M. Ajello. Decades-Long Changes of the Interstellar Wind Through Our Solar System. Science, 2013; 341 (6150): 1080 DOI: 10.1126/science.1239925

Cite This Page:

Southwest Research Institute. "IBEX spacecraft measures changes in the direction of interstellar winds buffeting our solar system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130905160513.htm>.
Southwest Research Institute. (2013, September 5). IBEX spacecraft measures changes in the direction of interstellar winds buffeting our solar system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130905160513.htm
Southwest Research Institute. "IBEX spacecraft measures changes in the direction of interstellar winds buffeting our solar system." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130905160513.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
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:

More Coverage


Interstellar Winds Buffeting Our Solar System Have Shifted Direction

Sep. 5, 2013 Scientists have discovered that the particles streaming into the solar system from interstellar space have likely changed direction over the last 40 ... read more
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