NASA has mapped the shape of the bubble surrounding our solar system using a cutting-edge model from previous space mission data. Experts now know the planets of our solar system is cocooned in a magnetic bubble.
This cosmic structure is created by solar wind continuously spewed by the Sun.
Outside this bubble is the ionised gas and magnetic field that fills the void between stellar systems.
Scientists have long attempted to discover the exact shape of this vast bubble.
Experts used to think the heliosphere was comet-shaped, with a rounded tip and a long trailing tail.
But NASA has now proposed an alternative and rather unexpected shape lacking this long tail, dubbed the deflated croissant.
It is difficult to get a picture of the heliosphere from inside.
The closest edge to Earth is approximately 10 billion miles (16 million km) distant.
Only two manmade objects have got anywhere near it when both Voyager spacecraft exited our solar system and arrived at interstellar space.
However, researchers have arrived at a more reliable picture of the bubble by examining charged particles firing towards our planet.
Those particles arrive from distant areas of the galaxy as well as within our solar system.
These bounce off the bubble and around it, before arriving at Earth where they can be measured.
NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission uses these extraterrestrial visitors in a way resembling radar.
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Scientists examine how these particles bounce off the edges to map what that edge might be.
NASA correlated this data with information beamed-back by older missions, including Cassini and New Horizons, resulting in refined measurements of the solar wind.
All this data was combined to create the newly released deflated croissant view of the solar system.
Understanding the heliosphere’s shape will contribute to our understanding of life on Earth.
The bubble protects our planet from deadly particles called galactic cosmic rays.
These are spat out of supernova with intense energy and are capable of killing life on Earth.
The new model may also help scientists understand where alien life may exist in the Universe.
Because our heliosphere is so vital to shielding life from cosmic rays, other planetary systems lacking similar protection might be uninhabitable.
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