Breakthrough: NASA Voyager 2 Returns Data Revealing a Wall of Fiery Plasma Rings Our Solar System

Friday, 22 November 2019 - 3:00PM
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Friday, 22 November 2019 - 3:00PM
Breakthrough: NASA Voyager 2 Returns Data Revealing a Wall of Fiery Plasma Rings Our Solar System
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Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

When Voyager 2 slipped into interstellar space it marked a new foray into uncharted waters, and the first data that it returned is nothing short of breathtaking. According to reports from Nerdist, our solar system is protected by a sphere of scorching hot plasma. A team of astronomers published these findings in this month's issue of the journal Nature Astronomy.

 

The heliosphere is a bubble of solar wind created by our Sun that reaches in every direction – far beyond the orbit of the planets. This protective sphere filters out interstellar winds and radiation, sheltering the solar system from their effects. The outer shell of this bubble is called the heliopause.


Voyager 2 finally returned data from when it crossed the beyond the heliopause in November 2018, revealing that the boundary between the heliopause and interstellar space is – quite literally – a firewall. It is "a plasma boundary region," according to the paper's abstract, stretching over 139 million miles wide with a temperature of 30,000–50,000 Kelvins (approximately 53,000–89,000 ° Fahrenheit). That's twice as hot as anybody predicted it could be.


Voyagers 1 and 2 launched in 1977 to study Jupiter and Saturn. Based on the success of that initial mission, NASA decided to continue the program. Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to study Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in August 2012, and Voyager 2 crossed out of our solar system in November 2018. Both probes continue to return data.


This video from SciShow Space does a great job of breaking down this phase of the Voyager mission:


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