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The Sun’s ripple effect

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Posted August 5, 2013
Image of sun courtesy of NASA.

Image of sun courtesy of NASA.

A new study co-authored by Boston University astronomers indicates that a bow shock (a dynamic boundary between the Sun’s heliosphere and the interstellar medium) is highly likely. These findings challenge recent predictions that no such bow shock would be encountered.

The researchers base their expectation of finding a bow shock on a new magneto-hydrodynamic simulation that confirmed a theoretically expected slow bow shock (SBS) ahead of the heliosphere. The new research supports the idea that the sun, like a boat moving through water, forms a crescent-shaped shockwave as it moves through interstellar gas. The study, titled “A slow bow shock ahead of the heliosphere,” was published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

In the current study, Bertalan Zieger, lead author and research scientist at BU’s Center for Space Physics, and colleagues predict that a slow bow shock should exist ahead of the heliosphere. This challenges some recent models that argued no bow shock at all would be found. Those studies, which used the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) satellite to measure the speed of interstellar particles entering the solar system near the edge of the heliosphere, suggested that the sun was moving too slowly through interstellar space (at 52,000 miles an hour) to create a bow shock.

Read more at: Phys.org

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