NEW: Boundary of Heliosphere Mapped for First Time

For the first time, the boundary of the heliosphere has been mapped, giving scientists a better understanding of how solar and interstellar winds interact.

Dan Reisenfeld, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author on the paper, said; “Physics models have theorized this boundary for years, but this is the first time we’ve actually been able to measure it and make a three-dimensional map of it.” Reisenfeld’s paper was published in the Astrophysical Journal today.

The heliosphere is the vast, bubble-like region of space created by the influence of our Sun and extends into interstellar space. The two major components to determining its edge are the heliospheric magnetic field and the solar wind from the Sun.

Three major sections from the beginning of the heliosphere to its edge are the termination shock, the heliosheath, and the heliopause. A type of particle called an energetic neutral atom (ENA) has also been observed to have been produced from its edges.

They did this by using IBEX satellite’s measurement of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) that result from collisions between solar wind particles and those from the interstellar wind. The intensity of that signal depends on the intensity of the solar wind that strikes the heliosheath. When a wave hits the sheath, the ENA count goes up and IBEX can detect it.

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