Images: NASA's IBEX Sees Our Solar System's Tail

IBEX Sees Solar System's Tail


Artist's impression of NASA's IBEX spacecraft exploring the edge of our solar system. The IBEX satellite has revealed the first images of our solar system's tail, called the heliotail. See our gallery of the discovery here. [Read the full story.]

Artist's Concept of Our Heliosphere


An artist's concept of our heliosphere, which is a bubble in space created by the solar wind and solar magnetic field. [Read the full story.]

Schematic Diagram of Heliotail

McComas et al. [ApJ, 2013].

Schematic diagram of heliotail as the interstellar magnetic field that surrounds our heliosphere squeezes and rotates the tail structure as seen in the IBEX observations. [Read the full story.]

IBEX Observations of Spectral Slope

McComas et al. [ApJ, 2013]

IBEX observations of spectral slope, where red and yellow indicate lower energy particles and green and blue higher energy ones. The central portion (circle) is looking down the heliotail and shows two lower energy “lobes” on the port and starboard sides and high energy regions at higher northern and southern latitudes. [Read the full story.]

Three Images of Astrospheres


The conditions necessary to make the heliosphere, namely the balance of an outward pushing stellar wind and the inward compression of surrounding interstellar gas is so common, that perhaps most stars have analogous structures, called astrospheres. Photographs of three such astrospheres are shown, as taken by various telescopes. [Read the full story.]

Animation Showing Heliotail Solar Winds


Animation showing Heliotail solar winds. [Read the full story.]

Low Density Interstellar Clouds

NASA/Adler/U. Chicago/Wesleyan

The solar journey through space is carrying us through a cluster of very low density interstellar clouds. Right now the Sun is inside of a cloud that is so tenuous that the interstellar gas detected by IBEX is as sparse as a handful of air stretched over a column that is hundreds of light years long. These clouds are identified by their motions. [Read the full story.]

Comet Hale-Bopp


Comets have tails and now so does our solar system. Here is a view of the Comet Hale-Bopp. NASA's IBEX satellite has spotted a comet-like tail trailing behind our solar system, similar to tails of other stars. [Read the full story.]

Charged Solar Particle's Path Animation Still


This animation shows a charged solar particle's path leaving the sun, while following the magnetic field lines out to the heliosheath. The solar particle hits a hydrogen atom, stealing its electron and becoming neutral. We then follow it until we see it hit one of IBEX's detectors. [Read the full story.]

High Energy Cosmic Rays Passing Through Solar System

Adler Planetarium/Chicago

This graph depicts the fraction of high energy cosmic rays (greater than 100 MeV) that pass through the boundary of the solar system. 100% of them are present outside of the Bow Shock. There is a small dropoff in the number that make it through to the heliopause. More than 50% are stopped between the heliopause and termination shock, which is at approximately 100 AU. This leaves a fraction less than 25% to permeate to the inner solar system. [Read the full story.]

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