Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory first mapped the boundaries of the heliosphere to understand how solar and interstellar winds interact.
The heliosphere is a region of the space around the sun, in which the solar wind plasma moves relative to the Sun at supersonic speed.
This boundary was previously described theoretically using physical models. For the first time, however, we measured and mapped it in 3D.
Dan Reisenfeld, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist and lead author of the article
The authors of the work used data from NASA’s IBEX satellite, which observes particles coming from the heliosphere – the boundary layer between the solar system and interstellar space. The team was able to map the edge of this zone – an area called the heliopause. Here the solar wind, which is directed into interstellar space and collides with the interstellar wind, which blows towards the Sun.
To study this movement, the team used the principle of sonar in bats. Sonar is a means of sound detection of underwater objects using acoustic radiation.
Bats send sonar pulses in all directions and use the feedback signal to create a mental map of their surroundings, and the authors took as a basis the solar wind that travels in all directions to create a map of the heliosphere.
The authors then built a 3D map using data collected over the entire solar cycle from 2009 to 2019.