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Solar system has a tail shaped like a four-leaf clover

作者:鞠觥哇    发布时间:2017-06-06 03:00:15    

LUCKY us! Our solar system has a tail shaped like a four-leaf clover, according to new observations of the plasma bubble that separates us from the rest of the galaxy. Particles blowing out from the sun – the solar wind – keep the plasma bubble inflated. Astronomers have long assumed that the sun’s motion as it orbits the centre of the galaxy squashes the bubble into a bullet shape, with a tail extending to the rear. Using observations from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft, astronomers were able to map this “heliotail” for the first time (Astrophysical Journal, doi.org/m65). One surprise was that, if we were to look down its length from front to back, we would see particles clustered into four lobes: two on the sun’s polar plane made of fast-moving particles and two on its equatorial plane made of slower-moving ones. The lobes might be a reflection of solar activity, says IBEX principal investigator David McComas. The map is based on data taken when the sun was minimally active and the solar wind had slowed down around the sun’s low to mid-latitudes. This article appeared in print under the headline “Our sun wags a lucky clover tail” More on these topics:

 

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