NASA launches rocket to observe the “windshield” of the solar system
Obviously, we know what is beyond the border Very little. Fortunately, some interstellar space can come to us and cross this boundary into the solar system.
A new NASA mission will study the light emitted by interstellar particles floating into the solar system to understand the nearest interstellar space. The mission is called Spatial Heterodyne Interferometric Emission Line Dynamics Spectrometer (SHIELDS), and it was successfully launched at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at 4:30 a.m. Eastern Time on April 19, 2021. NASA’s black Brant IX rocket carried the payload to an apogee of 177 miles, and then landed at the Baisha Airport with a parachute. Preliminary signs indicate that the detector system is operating as planned and the data has been received.
Our entire solar system is floating in a cloud, and this area has been cleaned up by ancient supernova explosions. Astronomers call this area Local Bubble, which is a rectangular space map about 300 light-years long, located in the spiral arm of Orion in our Milky Way. It contains hundreds of stars-including our sun.
This interstellar ocean is worthy of us The ship of trust-at the top of the heliosphere, a magnetic bubble blown by the sun. As we orbit the sun, the solar system itself is wrapped in the heliosphere, passing through this bubble at a speed of 52,000 miles per hour (23km/s). Interstellar particles hit the front end of our heliosphere like raindrops on the windshield.
The top of the heliosphere is more like a rubber raft than a wooden sailboat: its environment shapes its shape. It compresses where it is compressed and expands where it deforms. Specifically, how and where the heliospheric top lining deformed gives us clues about the nature of the interstellar space outside it. This boundary is exactly what Walt Harris, the lead researcher of the SHIELDS mission, is pursuing.
SHIELDS is a telescope that will be launched with a sounding rocket. A sounding rocket is a small vehicle that will fly into space for a few minutes of observation before returning to Earth. As part of the HYPE mission, Harris’ team launched an early version of the telescope in 2014, and after modifying the design, they are ready to launch again.
SHIELDS will measure the light from a special group of hydrogen atoms in interstellar space. These atoms are neutral and have a balanced number of protons and electrons. Since neutral atoms can pass through the lines of magnetic force, they pass through the top of the solar layer into our solar system almost without any hesitation – but this is not entirely true.
This small impact across borders Is the key to SHIELDS technology. The charged particles flow around the top of the heliosphere and form a barrier. Neutral particles from interstellar space must pass through this glove, and this will change their path. SHIELDS is designed to reconstruct the trajectories of neutral particles to determine where they came from and what they saw in the process.
SHIELDS will reach a peak height of about 186 miles (300 kilometers) above the ground within a few minutes of launch-much higher than the absorption of the earth’s atmosphere. Aim the telescope at the tip of the heliosphere and it will detect the light from the arriving hydrogen atoms. Measuring how the wavelength of light stretches or contracts can reveal the speed of the particles. In summary, SHIELDS will generate a map to reconstruct the shape and density changes of the heliospheric top material.
Harris hopes that these data will help answer tantalizing questions about what interstellar space looks like.
“There is a lot of uncertainty about the fine structure of the interstellar medium-our map is a bit rough,” Harris said. “We know the outline of these clouds, but we don’t know what’s going on inside them. ”
Astronomers also don’t know much about the galaxy’s magnetic field. But it should leave a mark on the top of our heliosphere, SHIELDS can detect it, and then compress the heliosphere in a specific way according to its strength and direction.
Finally, understanding our current plot of interstellar space may provide helpful guidance for the future. Our solar system is passing through the space where we are now. In about 50,000 years, we will get out of the Local Bubble, and who will know what will happen by then.