Thursday , January 20 2022

The Voyager spacecraft discovers completely new “unique physics” outside the Solar System


Voyager probes have discovered an entirely new type of electron explosion outside the solar system.

This is the first time a spacecraft has discovered this “unique physics” and could allow new advances in our understanding of the “interstellar medium,” or interstellar space.

NASA launched two Voyager spacecraft more than 40 years ago, aiming to fly to the far ends of our solar system. They have now gone further, reaching interstellar space, exploring the gaps between the stars, giving us the first glimpse of what might be true in that mysterious region.

The spacecraft’s recent discovery – using data from Voyager 1 and 2 – had captured batches of electrons that had never been found before. They discovered that the electrons in cosmic rays are accelerated by shock waves arising from large volcanic eruptions of the sun, and then launched into space.

The electron pulses travel before the shock waves that throw them into space. Electrons travel at almost the speed of light and accelerate along magnetic field lines.

Very soon, the low energy electrons arrive, sometimes taking days to do so. The spacecraft then detects the shock waves themselves, sometimes a month later.

The shock waves themselves come from a coronal mass ejection, masses of hot gas and energy emitted from the sun at nearly a million miles an hour. The Voyager spacecraft is now so far away even at this speed, which takes a year to discover.

Don Gurnett, emeritus professor of Iowa physics and astronomy and corresponding author of the study, says.

“We identified with these cosmic ray instruments the electrons that were reflected and accelerated by the interstellar shocks that propagated outward from the active solar events in the sun. This is a new mechanism. ”

Scientists now hope to be able to use this discovery to better understand shock waves and the radiation itself.

This, in turn, could help guide considerations when sending astronauts on long journeys to the moon or planet Mars, where they will be exposed to many more cosmic rays than we are exposed to on Earth.

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