The Voyager mission finds a new type of electron burst at the edge of our solar system


The Weezer probe left our solar system years ago, yet when they travel through interstellar space, they are still detecting bursts of cosmic rays more than 23 billion kilometers (14 billion miles) from our Sun. Huh.

A detailed analysis of recent data from both Sailor 1 and Sailor 2 has now revealed the first bursts of cosmic ray electrons in the interstellar space.

Shock waves of solar eruptions known as coronal mass ejections reached the edge of our solar system, these active particles appear even faster than the limits of our sun’s powerful winds.

“The idea that shock waves accelerate particles is not new,” notes astrophysicist Don Gernat from the University of Iowa.

He says that a similar process has been observed within the boundaries of our solar system where the solar wind is the most powerful.

“[But] He said that no one has seen it in a whole new ancient medium with interstellar shock wave.

The surface of our sun continuously emits solar wind – a stream of charged particles in the form of plasma, which is generated with a magnetic field. The boundaries of our solar system are difficult to define, but the ‘bubble’ made up of the solar wind and the material carrying it is called the heliosphere.

Eventually, this solar wind, traveling every planet and object in our solar system, splashes into the outside medium. This is what defines the boundaries of our solar system to a great extent.

In the cold of interstellar space, beyond the sun’s magnetic field, where the conditions are largely different, it is unclear what happens to solar plasma and cosmic rays that manage to achieve it until it is carried out on a shock wave. We do.

The Sailor Inquiry is finally giving us an opportunity to find out more. Astronomers are now introducing a new model for what happens to these shockwaves in interstellar space.

It all starts, they say, with a massive explosion on the Sun’s surface, which sends a semi-circular shock wave into the solar system.

When a wave of energy from the plasma from a coronal mass ejection reaches the interstellar space, the shock wave high energy induces cosmic rays to hit the tangential magnetic field generated by the wave, reflecting another shock and higher energy. Accelerates them to position, detected by voyager.

The plasma heats low-energy electrons which then propagate outward along magnetic fields. In some cases, according to data from voicers it takes as long as a month for plasma to even hold the shock wave forward.

This is the upstream field of what scientists are now calling ‘cosmic-ray foreshock’, and the team believes that it occurs just behind the magnetic field line in the interstellar space, as shown below.

Frontline model. (Gurnet et al., The Astronomical Journal, 2020)

“We have identified through cosmic ray devices that these are electrons that were amplified and accelerated by energetic solar events on the Sun by interstellar shocks extending outward,” Gernut says.

“This is a new system.”

This is an exciting discovery that fits in well with other recent figures. After crossing over the heliosphere, the Weezer probe has sent back measurements that suggest there is a strong magnetic field beyond the heliopause as we thought – possibly enough buoyancy for electrons in front of a shock wave and so forth. Fast.

“We make these interpretations of high-energy electrons arising from the reflection (and acceleration) of relativistic cosmic-ray electrons at the time of the first contact of shocks with the interstellar magnetic field line passing through the spacecraft,” the author concluded. is.

Understanding the physics of cosmic radiation and solar shock waves will not only help us better define the boundaries of our solar system, it will also help us to better understand the danger of stars exploding and radiation in space .

After more than four decades on the job, NASA’s longest running space mission is still teaching us so much.

The study was published in The Astronomical Journal.

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