News of the WeekSpace Physics

Tying Up the Solar System With a Ribbon of Charged Particles

Science  16 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5951, pp. 350-351
DOI: 10.1126/science.326_350a

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Five papers published online in Science this week report that NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer revealed a sky-spanning "ribbon" of unexpectedly intense emissions of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs). No one knows what is creating the ENA ribbon, but everyone agrees that it means the textbook picture of the heliosphere—in which the solar system's enveloping pocket filled with the solar wind's charged particles is plowing through the onrushing "galactic wind" of the interstellar medium in the shape of a comet—is wrong.