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Surprising Science

Edgy Solar System

The edge of our solar system is nothing like we thought.

“The edge of the solar system is tied up with a ribbon, astronomers have discovered. The first global map of the solar system reveals that its edge is nothing like what had been predicted. Neutral atoms, which are the only way to image the fringes of the solar system, are densely packed into a narrow ribbon rather than evenly distributed. ‘Our maps show structure and energy spectra that are completely different from what any model has predicted,’ says study coauthor Herbert Funsten of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer satellite, or IBEX, discovered the narrow ribbon, which completes nearly a full circle across the sky. The density of neutral atoms in the band is two to three times that in adjacent regions.”


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