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The Heliosphere’s Interstellar Interaction: No Bow Shock

Science  08 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6086, pp. 1291-1293
DOI: 10.1126/science.1221054

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Abstract

As the Sun moves through the local interstellar medium, its supersonic, ionized solar wind carves out a cavity called the heliosphere. Recent observations from the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft show that the relative motion of the Sun with respect to the interstellar medium is slower and in a somewhat different direction than previously thought. Here, we provide combined consensus values for this velocity vector and show that they have important implications for the global interstellar interaction. In particular, the velocity is almost certainly slower than the fast magnetosonic speed, with no bow shock forming ahead of the heliosphere, as was widely expected in the past.

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