Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
..
. 24/7 Space News .




SOLAR SCIENCE
Enigmatic "Ribbon" Of Energy Discovered by NASA Satellite Explained
by Staff Writers
Durham NH (SPX) Feb 07, 2013


A three-dimensional diagram of the retention region shown as a "life preserver" around our heliosphere bubble along with the original IBEX ribbon image. The interstellar magnetic field lines are shown running from upper left to lower right around the heliosphere, and the area where the field lines "squeeze" the heliosphere corresponds to the ribbon location. The red arrow at the front shows the direction of travel of our solar system. Image credit: Adler Planetarium/IBEX Team.

After three years of puzzling over a striking "ribbon" of energy and particles discovered by NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) at the edge of our solar system, scientists may be on the verge of cracking the mystery.

In a paper published Feb. 4, 2013, in the Astrophysical Journal, researchers, including lead author Nathan Schwadron of the University of New Hampshire, propose a "retention theory" that for the first time explains all the key observations of this astrophysical enigma.

"If the theory is correct," Schwadron notes, "the ribbon can be used to tell us how we're moving through the magnetic fields of the interstellar medium and how those magnetic fields then influence our space environment."

In particular, these strong magnetic fields appear to play a critical role in shaping our heliosphere - the huge bubble that surrounds our solar system and shields us from much of harmful galactic cosmic radiation that fills the galaxy.

This may have important ramifications for the history and future of radiation in space, and its impact here on Earth, as the heliosphere changes in response to changing conditions in the interstellar medium or the "space between the stars."

According to the retention theory, the ribbon exists in a special location where neutral hydrogen atoms from the solar wind move across the local galactic magnetic field. Neutral atoms are not affected by magnetic fields, but when their electrons get stripped away they become charged ions and begin to gyrate rapidly around magnetic field lines.

That rapid rotation creates waves or vibrations in the magnetic field, and the charged ions then become trapped by the waves. This is the process that creates the ribbon.

Says Schwadron, an associate professor at UNH's Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and department of physics, "Think of the ribbon as a harbor and the solar wind particles it contains as boats. The boats can be trapped in the harbor if the ocean waves outside it are powerful enough.

This is the nature of the new ribbon model. The ribbon is a region where particles, originally from the solar wind, become trapped or 'retained' due to intense waves and vibrations in the magnetic field."

The Astrophysical Journal paper is titled "Spatial Retention of Ions Producing the IBEX Ribbon" and is coauthored by Dave McComas of the Southwest Research Institute and principal investigator for the IBEX mission.

Says McComas, "This is a perfect example of the scientific process: we observe something completely new and unexpected with IBEX, develop various hypotheses to explain the observations, and then develop mathematical models to try to validate the hypotheses."

Indeed, since the discovery of the ribbon, more than a dozen competing theories seeking to explain the phenomenon have been put forth.

The retention theory "checks all the boxes, agrees with all the available observations, and the mathematical modeling results look remarkably like what the ribbon actually looks like," notes Schwadron. "This substantially raises the bar for models that attempt to explain the ribbon."

IBEX was launched in October 2008 and has provided images of the invisible interactions between the solar wind and the local galactic medium.

The ribbon was captured using ultra-high sensitive cameras - one of which has components designed and built at the UNH Space Science Center - that image energetic neutral atoms (instead of photons of light) to create maps of the boundary region between our solar system and the rest of our galaxy.

Although the retention theory may check all the boxes, the IBEX team is still far from claiming that the ribbon is fully explained.

A major test for the retention theory will be watching how the ribbon changes in step with observed changes in the solar wind. Notes Schwadron, "If what we observe matches what the model predicts should happen to the ribbon as the solar wind changes, that will go a long way toward validating the model."

.


Related Links
Earth Ocean and Space Institute
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





SOLAR SCIENCE
Seeing the Aurora in a New Light
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Feb 06, 2013
On a cold February night in Poker Flat, Alaska, a team of scientists will wait patiently for the exotic red and green glow of an aurora to illuminate the sky. Instead of simply admiring the view, this group from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center of Greenbelt, Md., and The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, Calif. will launch a sounding rocket up through the Northern Lights. The rocket c ... read more


SOLAR SCIENCE
Building a lunar base with 3D printing

US, Europe team up for moon fly-by

Russia to Launch Lunar Mission in 2015

US, Europe team up for moon fly-by

SOLAR SCIENCE
Sampling Several Rock Targets

Mapping Mars

Weekend Test on Mars Was Preparation to Drill a Rock

AAS Division For Planetary Sciences Issues Statement On Mars 2020 Program

SOLAR SCIENCE
Supersonic skydiver even faster than thought

Ahmadinejad says ready to be Iran's first spaceman

Iran's Bio-Capsule Comes Back from Space

A Hero For Humankind: Yuri Gagarin's Spaceflight

SOLAR SCIENCE
Reshuffle for Tiangong

China to launch 20 spacecrafts in 2013

Mr Xi in Space

China plans manned space launch in 2013: state media

SOLAR SCIENCE
NASA to Send Inflatable Pod to International Space Station

ISS to get inflatable module

ESA workhorse to power NASA's Orion spacecraft

Competition Hopes To Fine Tune ISS Solar Array Shadowing

SOLAR SCIENCE
Arianespace Launches Six Globalstar Birds Using Starsem Soyuz

Final checkout underway for the Starsem Soyuz launch with Globalstar spacecraft

Zenit Engine Worked Normally

NASA Launches Rocket from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia

SOLAR SCIENCE
Kepler Data Suggest Earth-size Planets May Be Next Door

Earth-like planets may be closer than thought: study

Are Super-Earths Actually Mini-Neptunes?

Herschel Finds Past-Prime Star May Be Making Planets

SOLAR SCIENCE
Light-emitting triangles may have applications in optical technology

Largest prime number to date found

South Korean Satellite Makes First Contact with Ground

Novel materials shake ship scum




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement