Voyager 1 Might Have Farther to Go to Exit the Heliosheath

Status Report From: American Geophysical Union
Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012

image The Voyager 1 spacecraft is exploring the outer heliosheath past about 111 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. The heliosheath is the region where the outgoing solar wind is slowed by the interstellar medium. The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft have been sending back interesting new information about the structure of this previously uncharted boundary region at the edge of the solar system. Webber et al. now report that Voyager 1 recently observed two sudden increases in the intensity of low-energy cosmic ray electrons as the spacecraft traveled farther from the Sun.

At the outer boundary of the heliosheath the electron intensity is usually assumed to be equal to that in interstellar space, outside the heliosphere. The authors suggest that the sudden changes in electron intensity are evidence of significantly different regions in the structure of the outer heliosheath. They also suggest that as of early 2012, Voyager 1 has not quite reached the undisturbed interstellar medium outside of the heliosheath.

Source: Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2012GL051171, 2012

Title: "Sudden intensity increases and radial gradient changes of cosmic ray MeV electrons and protons observed at Voyager 1 beyond 111 AU in the heliosheath"

Authors: W. R. Webber: Department of Astronomy, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA; F. B. McDonald: Institute of Physical Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA; A. C. Cummings and E. C. Stone: Space Radiation Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA; B. Heikkila and N. Lal: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA.

Mary Catherine Adams
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