Our Interstellar Neighborhood

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Science  04 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5714, pp. 1424-1425
DOI: 10.1126/science.1109701

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Far beyond the orbit of Pluto, the solar wind becomes too spread out to counter the interstellar medium, and the sphere of influence of our Sun ends in a termination shock, heliopause, and possibly a bow shock. In his Perspective, Jokipii discusses how the solar wind and the interstellar medium interact in this region. He highlights the report by Lallement et al, who show that the neutral hydrogen atoms in the interstellar plasma are deflected relative to the neutral helium and conclude that the only feasible explanation is a lateral asymmetry in the termination and bow shocks caused by the interstellar magnetic field. The results are the most direct data on the magnetic field in the local interstellar medium to date.