Home > Astronomy, Earth, IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer), Solar System, Spaceflight, Sun, Unmanned Spaceflight > New Observations & Details on Heliosphere & Aurora

New Observations & Details on Heliosphere & Aurora


OBSERVATIONS IMPROVE UNDERSTANDING OF THE HELIOSPHERE

The outer regions of the heliosphere, a giant bubble around the solar system created by solar wind, are difficult to study directly. The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission, which maps emission of energetic neutral atoms from the boundary between the heliosphere and the interstellar medium, has greatly contributed to understanding of the heliosphere and even discovered some unexpected features. In particular, IBEX maps show a strange “ribbon” of enhanced energetic neutral atom emission that was not predicted by any theory. The origins of this ribbon, which stretches more than 300 degrees across the sky, remain unknown. McComas et al. review IBEX observations, current understanding of the heliosphere, hypotheses that have been proposed to explain the ribbon, and directions for future research.

NEW DETAIL ON AURORAS

High-resolution imaging from spacecraft is revealing new detail on structures in bright, dynamic auroras. In the auroral regions where particles are accelerated to high energies, dynamic structures evolve on time scales of seconds or less, though the processes that drive particle acceleration and transfer of energy to small scales are not fully understood. Chaston et al. show how new spaceborne auroral imagery combined with simultaneous particle measurements can help improve understanding of the physical processes involved in the aurora. In particular, they show how magnetic reconnection (in which magnetic field lines break and reconnect, releasing energy), tearing, and sheared flows can transfer energy from larger to smaller scales and help form the auroral structures observed.

Full Story: http://www.agu.org/news/press/jhighlight_archives/2011/2011-10-31.shtml

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