Cassini of NASA has done another leap of space exploration. A new data coming from the spacecraft suggests that the sun and the planets around it are being surrounded by a giant system of a magnetic field that trails behind the sun in a shape similar to a long tail comet.
According to NASA, results from the study of space exploration of Cassini published in Nature Astronomy, that the sun releases a constant magnetic solar wind flow which moves through the interstellar space. The solar wind reaches the inner solar system and far past the orbit of Neptune creating a 23 billion miles bubble called heliosphere which scientists conceived it to be rounded on both ends making its shape almost spherical.
"Instead of prolonged, comet-like tail, this bubble-shaped of the heliosphere is due to a strong interstellar magnetic field, combined with the fact that ratio between particle pressure and the magnetic pressure inside the heliosheath is high," a space scientist of the Academy of Athens in Greece and the lead author of the study Kostas Dialynas said. The NASA Cassini's data from the study also covers the entire eleven-year solar activity cycle.
Since the discovery from new data gathered by the NASA's Cassini, scientists already have a new clue about the heliosphere trailing end. Charged particles from the inner solar system reached the boundary of the heliosphere undergoes series of charge exchanges with neutral gas atoms from the interstellar medium while dropping and regaining electrons as they travel through the vast boundary region and pinged back towards the inner solar system as fast-moving neutral atoms which the Cassini spacecraft measures.
Per ABC News, the seven-meter-long NASA Cassini spacecraft was launched in October 1997. Its mission is to sent time in the outer solar system measuring and observing the planet Saturn including its rings and moons that surround it.
NASA Cassini now enters its dramatic orbit high above the Saturn before it plunges between the planet and its innermost rings 22 times. However, after the plunging, the spacecraft will decent again into the planet's upper atmosphere on September 15, 2017, collecting data before it will break apart and end its 20-year mission on the planet.
NASA's Cassini and Voyager instrument lead missions based at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland as well as the author of the study Tom Krimigis said, "The NASA Cassini instrument is designed to image the ions trapped in the magnetosphere of Saturn." Krimigis also said that they never thought that they would see what they are seeing and be able to image to boundaries of the heliosphere.
The researchers also explained that the tail is about the same distance from them to the nose because of the patterns from a solar activity show in tail particles as those from the nose. "This means that the long, comet-like tail may not exist at all but, the heliosphere may be round and symmetrical," the team added.
Data gathered from the previous explorations and NASA Cassini provides a windfall for studying the far reaches for the solar wind. "As we continue to gather data from the edges of the heliosphere, this data will help us better understand the interstellar that help shields the earth environment from harmful cosmic rays," Arik Posner, Voyager and IBEX program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C., said.