No long, twisted tail trails the solar system | Science News

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No long, twisted tail trails the solar system

Bubble inflated by particles from the sun is spherical, not comet-shaped, study shows

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11:00am, April 24, 2017
heliosphere

A TALE OF NO TAIL  Data from the Voyager and Cassini spacecraft suggest that the heliosphere, the bubble of particles surrounding the solar system, is spherical, not comet-shaped. This illustration shows how that bubble is shaped by the interstellar magnetic field and flow of particles from interstellar space. Other labeled parts of the heliosphere are its outer edge (heliopause), the point at which the solar wind slows in speed (termination shock) and the region between those two boundaries (heliosheath).

The solar system doesn’t have a long, twisted tail after all.

Data from the Cassini and Voyager spacecraft show that the bubble of particles surrounding the solar system is spherical, not comet-shaped. Observing a spherical bubble runs counter to 55 years of speculation on the shape of this solar system feature, says Tom Krimigis of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. He and colleagues report the result online April 24 in Nature Astronomy.

“You can’t really argue with the new result,” says Merav Opher of Boston University, who was not involved in the study. “The data so loudly say that there is no tail.”

The bubble, called the heliosphere, is inflated by particles streaming from the sun and envelops all of the material in the solar system. Its shape is important because it provides clues about how the solar system interacts with

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