Accurate timing of the incoming ENAs allows the IBEX team to obtain a higher resolution in the latitudinal direction. The inset at right shows some of the fine detail of the ribbon.  Credit: Southwest Research Institute (SwRI)

Spacecraft Detects Mysterious “Ribbon” at Edge of Solar System

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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Since it launched a year ago, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) has been monitoring heliosphere and how our Sun interacts with and the local interstellar medium — the gas and dust trapped in the vacuum of space. The first results from the mission, combined with data from the Cassini mission, are showing the heliosphere to be different from what researchers have previously thought. Data show an unexpected bright band or ribbon of surprisingly high-energy emissions. “We knew there would be energetic neutral atoms coming in from the very edge of the heliosphere, and our theories said there would be small variations in their emissions,” said David McComas, IBEX Principal Investigator at a press conference on Thursday. “But instead we are seeing two-to-three hundred percent variations, and this is not entirely understood. Whatever we thought about this before is definitely not right.”

The energies IBEX has observed range from 0.2 to 6.0 kiloelectron volts, and the scientists said its flux is two to three times greater than the ENA activity throughout the rest of the heliosphere. McComas and his colleagues said that no existing model can explain all the dominant features of this “ribbon.” Instead, they suggest that these new findings will prompt a change in our understanding of the heliosphere and the processes that shape it.

This image illustrates one possible explanation for the bright ribbon of emission seen in the IBEX map. The galactic magnetic field shapes the heliosphere as it drapes over it. The ribbon appears to trace the area where the magnetic field is most parallel to the surface of the heliosphere (the heliopause).  Credit:  Southwest Research institute

This image illustrates one possible explanation for the bright ribbon of emission seen in the IBEX map. The galactic magnetic field shapes the heliosphere as it drapes over it. The ribbon appears to trace the area where the magnetic field is most parallel to the surface of the heliosphere (the heliopause). Credit: Southwest Research institute


McComas suggested that the energetic neutral atom (ENA) ribbon could be caused by interactions between the heliosphere and the local interstellar magnetic field. “The local interstellar magnetic field is oriented in such a way that it correlates with the ribbon. If you ‘paint’ the ribbon on the boundary of the heliosphere, the magnetic field is like big bungie cords that pushing in along the sides and at southern part of the heliosphere. Somehow the magnetic field seems to be playing a dominant roll in these interactions, but we don’t know it could produced these higher fluxes. We have to figure out what physics were are missing.”

The solar wind streaks away from the sun in all directions at over a millions kilometers per hour. It creates a bubble in space around our solar system.

For the first ten billion kilometers of its radius, the solar wind travels at over a million kilometers per hour. It slows as it begins to collide with the interstellar medium, and the point where the solar wind slows down is the termination shock; the point where the interstellar medium and solar wind pressures balance is called the heliopause; the point where the interstellar medium, traveling in the opposite direction, slows down as it collides with the heliosphere is the bow shock.

The heliosphere. Credit: NASA

The heliosphere. Credit: NASA


The Voyager spacecraft have explored this region, but didn’t detect the ribbon. Team member Eric Christian said the ribbon wound in between the location of Voyager 1 and 2, and they couldn’t detect it in their immediate areas. Voyager 1 spacecraft encountered the helioshock in 2004 when it reached the region where the charged particles streaming off the sun hit the neutral gas from interstellar space. Voyager 2 followed into the solar system’s edge in 2007. While these spacecraft made the first explorations of this region, IBEX is now revealing a a more complete picture, filling in where the Voyagers couldn’t. Christian compared Voyager 1 and 2 to be like weather stations while IBEX is first weather satellite to provide more complete coverage.

McComas said his first reaction when the data started coming in was that of terror because he thought something must be wrong with the spacecraft. But as more data kept coming back each week, the team realized that they were wrong, and the spacecraft was right.

“Our next steps will be to go through all the detailed observations and rack them up against the various models and go find what it is that we are missing, what we’ve been leaving out,” he said.

For more information and visuals, see this NASA webpage.

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66 Responses

  1. MichaelL says:

    Dave Finton beat me to it! However, there was an episode from TOS, I think one of the first, where the Enterprise encountered an energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy as well!

  2. Dave Finton says:

    Hopefully it’s not the Nexus ribbon from Star Trek: Generations. I wouldn’t want Soran blowing up our Sun to alter its path just so he can experience nirvana once again.

    Seriously, this is pretty cool. I wonder how dynamic this ribbon is (i.e. does it change shape over time?).

  3. Astrofiend says:

    Damn – a year since this thing was launched!? I am getting old quickly.

    Great to see some results from this thing though – I think it is a very interesting mission…

  4. Jon Hanford says:

    Gotta be Nibiru. Now there’s proof from NASA 🙂

  5. Anaconda says:

    “Whatever we thought about this before is definitely not right.”

    “We have to figure out what physics were are missing.”

    Gee, could they be plasma physics they are missing?

    “…[T]he Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) has been monitoring heliosphere and how our Sun interacts with and the local interstellar medium — the gas and dust trapped in the vacuum of space.”

    Try again, as in ionized dust and plasma, charged particles.

    Don’t think so?

    “Somehow the magnetic field seems to be playing a dominant roll in these interactions…”

    Magnetic fields don’t effect neutral gas or dust.

    But magnetic fields do effect plasma and ionized dust.

    “The local interstellar magnetic field is oriented in such a way that it correlates with the ribbon.”

    “…[T]he energetic neutral atom (ENA) ribbon could be caused by interactions between the heliosphere and the local interstellar magnetic field.

    Yes, it could be that there is a plasma discontinuity there. As likely, the heliopause is a double layer.

    Of course, magnetic fields are caused by electric current, as confirmed by NASA: “Moreover, electric current causes magnetic fields (see Electromagnetism)…”

    http://stargazers.gsfc.nasa.gov/resources/electricity.htm

    Are the researchers even sure the ribbon is made up of neutral atoms?

    Seems there is a lot of variance in the energy levels for neutral atoms. And why would neutral atoms react to magnetic fields.

    Think I’m wrong?

    Well, as pointed out in the article the ‘researchers’ don’t have a clue — all their ideas were blown out of the water.

    And the first three commenters didn’t have much relevant analysis to offer.

  6. Nexus says:

    I hope IBEX hangs around and collects data for a long time. It would be good to know just what happens as the intensity of the solar wind varies with the solar cycle.

  7. SteveZodiac says:

    This is why we have to observe things and not just theorise, clearly our understanding of physics is about to undergo a revision. The EU theorists are going to have a field day but we seem to be getting more and more evidence that things down here on Earth are not the same as they are out there in space,

  8. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    in Anaconda’s own deluded mind that holds fanciful figments of imagination, NOT the science itself. Pragmatism – an approach that assesses the truth of meaning of theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application – is clearly not his strong suit. Really to make such wrong and wild attention-grabbing sweeping statements against mathematics and science (minus any real proof) shows the reality of his sad diagnosable psychotic personality flaws.
    In the end, this silly Anaconda chap is the true representative of prima donna – a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance. Sadly he has neither!
    When in reality it is just success, plain and simple.
    So-called “Anaconda insights” are fanciful figments of imagination in a “vacuum” that plenty of ideas which do correctly explain reality.

    Such is the true nature of the jackass and the nature of a delusional mind.

    Really in the end Anaconda knows absolutely nothing.

  9. DrFlimmer says:

    I just found out that a lecturer of me is involved in this research. I just want to note that he definitely works with plasma physics.

  10. statavina says:

    seems both Anaconda and B Crumb disregard the basic comment policy.

    anyway, i’m currently appreciating this tricky belt/ribbon/hash mark/brace thing for what it could be instead of immediately trying to demystify it for what it should be.

  11. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    That was some pretty nifty visuals, I don’t think I would have understand the article as much without them.

    Typically when you have some sort of high (energy) neutral flux in connection with a magnetic field you are looking at a dynamic effect. This can be seen everywhere from low plasma processes (where neutrals are accelerated by the rf variation of the plasma) to atmospheres (where I hear the Mars atmosphere expulsion gets a significant boost by its distorted multipole field as magnetic “pockets” are sheared off into space – Mars partial field is not protecting the atmosphere as Earth’s full dipole, it is “pumping” it).

    Finally, the EU troll:

    the first three commenters didn’t have much relevant analysis to offer.

    Funny, because that is exactly what you yourself offer. Making a random list of magnetic effects isn’t making an analysis, it’s making obeisance to a religious belief.

    Also, if the IBEX experts have obtained the knowledge that earlier models are incorrect, but can’t offer a new one, what would be likelihood that the thread would offer one? That doesn’t mean science, who knows EU is false, is wrong. On the contrary, the above shows it works, as opposed to crackpot beliefs.

  12. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    A few notes, offered as friendly but possibly silly criticism:

    The EU theorists

    First, I don’t think it makes sense or is beneficial to call EU believers “theorists”.

    As a theory, “it”. whatever it is, is falsified: EM fields isn’t a major force that drive or explain the large scale structure of universe. (Aside from the trivial fact that if there wasn’t symmetry of charge and near equality of numbers, it would be a different universe.) And a real theorist would never chase a false theory needlessly.

    [He or she may use it as a convenient or illustrative model for aspects of reality however, in the same way that Newton gravity simplifies or illustrate gravitation. But that is different.]

    Also, I note as Anaconda here, no EU believer actually likes to describe a predictive theory and make actual predictions, because that would rock his cradle and knock the comfort thumb out of his mouth when he can be proven wrong.

    Second, as per above there doesn’t seem to be an actual EU theory, besides the false hypothesis about large-scale structures.

    B Crumb disregard the basic comment policy

    Perhaps you are thinking of being “nice”. In that case, I disagree.

    Besides neutral nice-wise characterization of categories, necessary for analysis and understanding, and placing Anaconda against those categories, which may or may not be necessary for the same, he makes one personal comment: Anaconda is “silly”.

    Well, considering the objective evidence, that seems indeed to be the case. However, it could possibly have been nicer to have abstained. (o.O)

  13. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    D’oh! “low plasma processes” – low energy plasma processes.

  14. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    Double d’oh! Low _pressure_ plasma processes. [Reach for coffee cup, time for refill.]

  15. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    anaconda deserves no quarter no respite.
    The fool keep posting insidious irrelevancies

    I mean;

    Of course, magnetic fields are caused by electric current, as confirmed by NASA: “Moreover, electric current causes magnetic fields (see Electromagnetism)…

    Who needs NASA to confirm this?? Even a very young elementary school kid knows this to be true!!

    I have never seen a post like Anaconda’s here that says so little, yet says nothing!

    As I’ve already said;

    Really in the end Anaconda knows absolutely nothing.

  16. earls says:

    “EM fields isn’t a major force that drive or explain the large scale structure of universe.”

    Citation? If gravity is the end-all-be-all of large scale structuring, I suppose you have the answers to the “dark” questions.

    ‘The heliospheric current sheet is a ripple in the heliosphere created by the Sun’s rotating magnetic field. Extending throughout the heliosphere, it is _considered the largest structure in the Solar System_ and is said to resemble a “ballerina’s skirt”‘

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliosphere

    Yes. EM has absolutely nothing to do with the single largest structure of the solar system. Good job.

    Oh wait, the magnetic field is created by gravity (the mysterious dynamo effect [still unexplained and undemonstrated]), so nevermind, you’re absolutely right. No point in studying the EM effects in space.

    “no EU believer actually likes to describe a predictive theory and make actual predictions”

    This discovery was predicted by EU. That’s the point.

    There are plenty more predictions waiting to be verified. But that would require that you knew anything about the theory. Er, belief.

  17. Anaconda says:

    SBC, pleasant fellow that guy.

    @ statavina, SBC’s comments speak for themselves, but where specifically do you think my comment violated the moderation policy?

    @ Torbjorn Larsson OM,

    Larsson wrote: “Funny, because that [irrelevant analysis] is exactly what you yourself offer.”

    Actually, in some sense you are right, most of my comment simply quoted the researchers own statements, and offered a few points of analysis about plasma physics and magnetic fields, which as one of the researchers said was playing a “dominant” role in these processes at the heliopause.

    Larsson wrote: “Making a random list of magnetic effects isn’t making an analysis, it’s making obeisance to a religious belief.”

    A telling bit of overstretch to compare my comment to “obeisance to a religious belief.”

    That seems more like a case of psychological projection on Larsson’s part than anything else.

    Larrson wrote: “..science, who knows EU is false…”

    Quite the contrary, this year alone has seen a string of observations & measurements that confirm the role of electromagnetism in space and the importance of electric currents in space plasma, both between the Sun and Earth and in deep-space star formation.

    Torbjorn Larsson OM can’t help himself and continues to rail on against EU (the irony is I never mentioned EU in my original comment). But as one of Shakespear’s characters spoke: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

    SBC presents my (Anaconda’s) comment: “Of course, magnetic fields are caused by electric current, as confirmed by NASA: “Moreover, electric current causes magnetic fields (see Electromagnetism)…”

    And SBC responds: “Who needs NASA to confirm this?? Even a very young elementary school kid knows this to be true!!”

    Silly me for remembering IVAN3MAN’s constant attack when I’ve pointed out the ubiquitous presence of magnetic fields in deep-space before on this website. But Hey, SBC, I’m happy you and I agree on something 🙂

    Electric current causes magnetic fields.

    (space.com) – 29 September 2009 – Magnetic Fields Guide Star Birth:

    http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/090929-star-formation.html

    “The magnetic fields tended to line up in the same direction, even though the relative size scales (1 light-year cores versus 1,000 light-year nebulas) and densities were different by orders of magnitude. Since turbulence would tend to churn the nebula and mix up magnetic field directions, their findings show that magnetic fields dominate turbulence in influencing star birth.”

    “The study will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.”

    Plasma physics and electromagnetism in space both near and far.

  18. Aqua says:

    Something about the offset between Sol’s mag. field and the galactic mag. field is unsettling. Does this indicate that Sol is a captured stellar object – origins in a smaller galaxy? If not.. did Sol’s mag. field get ‘whacked’? Or is it indicative and relative to our star’s motion thru the galactic disk?

  19. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Anaconda said;

    Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,

    You really sound like a broken record. Listen . Stop blithering on again and again about things you think you know about, because as most people see it (here and elsewhere), much of is just the same recycled smelly garbage.

    Really in the end Anaconda knows absolutely nothing!

  20. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Anaconda deserves no quarter, and no respite, by anyone here.

    The fool just keeps posting insidious irrelevancies.

  21. Anaconda says:

    SBC, pleasant fellow that guy.

  22. cipater says:

    Actually, you’re both annoying.

    Opinions aside however… I have a question for Anaconda: these observations defy current models—there are “missing physics.” What makes you think that EU or plasma physics are the missing physics? How, specifically, does plasma physics explain these observations?

  23. Anaconda says:

    Mostly, bcause plasma physics seemingly isn’t considered. Notice that in this story the only hint of plasma is the discussion of magnetic fields. As mentioned magnetic fields play a “dominate” role in the ribbon’s presence at the helio pause.

    In fact, it seems clear that the magnetic field plays a larger role in the formation of the helio pause than the solar wind, although, of course, the solar wind is composed of charged particles, electrons and ions, plasma.

    cipater, you do have a point, I can’t give you a definitive answer.

    But I suggest the actual scientists will get to the bottom of the dynamics and processes at the helio pause. It is well within Man’s ability to observe & measure, both remotely as we are doing now, but in the near future in situ probes as well, I rest assured that plasma and electromagnetism will be found to play a dominate role, just as magnetism has been found, today, to play a “dominate” role.

    Is my lack of specificity unsatisfactory?

    I’m sure it is.

    But the point is this: All possibilities need to be considered — while some, here, seem happy to write alternatives off without even actively considering them.

    Is that Scientific?

  24. Nexus says:

    The trouble with EU is that it is so vague and makes no real predictions. All EU promoters can manage is to scour the web for surprising scientific results and then claim that EU can explain it. It is easy to claim some phenomenon fits some theory after the fact when the theory is badly defined and nebulous- but it’s also meaningless. Make some testable PREDICTIONS, and perhaps EU will be taken more seriously.

  25. earls says:

    Where and by who were you exposed to EU?

  26. William928 says:

    EU is the snake’s own “pet”(pun intended) theory, methinks.

  27. ND says:

    Please ignore Anaconda. He has upped the trolling after his arguments were shot down and shown to be very dishonest in his arguments and finally left UT. It seems he’s trying to make a comeback with loud rhetoric, after a prolonged absence.

  28. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Anaconda

    This is anther usual deliberately misleading statement, as we expect from you ilk.;

    Mostly, because plasma physics seemingly isn’t considered.

    The reason why plasma physics is not really considered, is because it is near impossible to measure with an exactitude. What you continue to fail to understand is that just because you think that some visual or image of an object appears , does not mean that it is so. Astronomy and astrophysics relies on observation and measurement, and applying that to explain the physical processes in the object in question. (Not some crazy notion of a in situ laboratory experiment applied on an assumption that has not been observed on astronomical scales.)
    Bottom line is plasma physics in astronomical objects and their phenomena is important, but it is not the be all and end all, and furthermore is fairly minor compared to gravitational, evolutionary and kinematic behaviours that cause most observed phenomena.
    This is unlike you continued history of unrelated balderdash, where you just dismiss out of hand any observed or deduced phenomena you don’t agree with.I.e. Black holes, mathematics, etc.. It seems very clear you are incapable of comprehending the significance of the phenomena and the necessary evidence needed to supports the underlying theory to explain it. All you do is act like some deluded person, who tends to set aside more achievable objectives based on his limited capabilities, but set your totally ridiculous ideals or higher goals in order to pursue something you really don’t know very much about.
    Really. Your main limitation here is you lack of intellect -and science – combined with an inability to gauge normalcy or reality.
    In the end, you have had a bit of a respite from these posts, after being absolutely hammered into the ground because of your fraudulent deceptions and total dishonesty in what you have actually said. Yet you come back with the usual arrogance, pretending that the switch can be turned on again, so others not exposed to you endless vitriolic claptrap maybe swayed to your unfounded theories and gross delusions.

    Really, no one who has been exposed to your tactics and nonsenses wants to tolerate the EU rubbish anymore. It is just idle speculation, akin to faith in the unexplainable, and is nothing to do with science, observation, or the scientific method.

    Pigs we might be, by we don’t like you eating out of the same sty.

    Note : Heliopause is one word not two!

  29. Dave Finton says:

    So much for my attempt at starting this thread on a light-hearted note. O_o

  30. Mage netic says:

    I have read this thread with great interest as a couple of things stand out. I am sorry it is so long but I feel this is very important.

    I have been taught all my life by science that magnetic fields and electricity are connected. Does not our worlds electrical power grid depend on that? Thinking that I might have got this wrong I have spent the last day looking at the internet on magnetism and electricity.

    In the world of politics if an opponent is correct and you have no moral or factual high ground then you attack them personally. Especially when there is no actual facts quoted to back up the attack.

    I think i have found what this EU theory or plasma physics is and its to do with the idea that the universe has a lot of electric stuff in it.

    So, I re read the article and others on it and magnetism is mentioned a lot but no mention of electricity. I then searched for more articles on space stuff where magnetism is mentioned and it seems that magnetism is everywhere. A lot of these i had read before without realising this simple fact. Magnetism is found everywhere but there is no mention of electricity.

    Please can those who have attacked this Anaconda person give me evidence and quotes that magnetism and electricity are not connected?

    I found an article by NASA on the subject of the giant ribbon and it states

    “One important clue: The ribbon runs perpendicular to the direction of the galactic magnetic field just outside the heliosphere, as shown in the illustration at right.

    “That cannot be a coincidence,” says McComas. But what does it mean? No one knows. “We’re missing some fundamental aspect of the interaction between the heliosphere and the rest of the galaxy. Theorists are working like crazy to figure this out.”

    Science tells me that magnetic and electricity are perpendicular to each other. That is a fact. So, although i am no genius, what are these “theorists” looking for? Do they not know any science or is it some science that the common public are not taught or allowed to know? Has the basics you have taught me and keep quoting wrong?

    Or is the conclusion, from the personal attacks and that magnetism and electricity are linked, that for some reason electricity is not accepted or wanted?

    I am at a total loss as to why electricity is not mentioned in any of these articles, why it is not obvious that a force perpendicular to this magnetic ribbon could not be electric or what the actual issue with it being electric?

    What is the problem with electric stuff in space?

  31. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Mage netic said;

    What is the problem with electric stuff in space?

    Actually there is absolutely no problem with having magnetic field and plasmas in space, and it is true it is likely it has significant influence on various types of astronomical phenomena. Generation of fields too can be by electric current, and produce significant observational phenomena. Yet when it is compared to gravitational forces and the whole story of cosmogony (as stellar evolution), it is clear that the EU phenomena is by far secondary to universal forces gravitation and observed astronomical phenomena.
    Anoconda really thinks all this is all a big joke. His sole aim is to supplant his own twisted EU ideas which are not placed in reality nor have any real evidence to back-up what he says. I.e. Even basic professional paper citations, etc. Yet he doesn’t even consider the evidence of black holes (direct or otherwise), but rejects even the basic tenets of the scientific method, theoretical and formative mathematics – even though he professes himself he had little knowledge or experience. Yet he had the absolute audacity to claim it is all some kind of conspiracy among astrophysicists and their ilk.
    It people like this person, who feel obliged to see their own narrow views of the world, beseeching anyone to join his own strange desire of wanting “to be treated like an equal.”
    Worse is is prepared to do virtually anything and say anything, even when others point out the flaws in his silly ideas – especially against those who have real knowledge and the brain
    power to really know better.
    Yet even with all the patience of many other individual here who have engaged him on his view, he persists in discarding what others have shown to be true, and just come back to the same ‘ol claptrap.
    Bottom line. “Electric stuff” does happen in space, but not in the way Anaconda thinks it does. It does plays a significant role in the universe, but it come a poor second to most astronomical phenomena where gravity reins supreme.
    New guys in this forum might think we are being unfair on this individual, but from history over many months shows he is not just interested in rational debate. All he is interested in doing, is to be the centre of attention.

  32. DrFlimmer says:

    @ HSBC

    Your last post (the answer to mage natic) is really good!! Well done! It summarizes all the things that are important and what has happend. Thanks!

    @ Anaconda

    Mostly, bcause plasma physics seemingly isn’t considered.

    You have no idea, what you are talking about. I can proove this:
    As I already said, a lecturer of mine is involved in this research. Search for H. Fichtner on NASA ADS or on arxiv and you will find the topic he mostly works on. Shall I tell you? The heliosphere. And guess, he does it with plasma physics and (mostly) nothing else. Of course, you cannot describe the heliosphere without plasma physics, all claims to the contrary are ridicolous. Just like your old comment “gravity-only”. Noone is doing this. Just deal with it. There is no need to mention specifically plasma physics, because everyone knows that it is obviously involved. And obvious things are not needed to be mentioned!

  33. Manu says:

    @ Mage netic:

    A ‘short’ answer attempt.
    Yes, electricity and magnetism are connected, by Maxwell equations in classical physics. This does not mean they’re equal; more specifically it doesn’t mean you must have a significant electric (electrostatic) field because you have a significant magnetic field.

    Electrostatic fields appear when electric charges are separated. The field acts in return on the charges, with a force parallel to field lines, to the end that they will tend to quickly reunite. A very important fact about the universe is that it’s neutral (it holds as many positive than negative charges), so it doesn’t have an overall electric field; and any local field tends to cancel itself.

    Magnetic fields on the contrary, appear when electric charges are on the move. Basic example: current in a wire produces a magnetic field, yet the wire does not produce an electric field because it remains globally neutral at all times (provided the current is stable).

    Importantly, the magnetic field does not tend to cancel itself: the force it applies on the moving charges is perpendicular to both field lines and charge movement, so the movement is deviated, the charges speed is basically constant, so the field remains.

    There are many electric currents in the universe, hence magnetic fields, yet no significant electric field.

    I foresee this objection: if there is an electric current, it surely means there is an electric field in the first place?

    Not necessarily: a magnetic field acting on moving charges will create a current without any electric field (moving charges can be any overall movement of neutral matter with free charges: ionised gas, a piece of metal, seawater…); and when an electric field is responsible for the current (a battery powered circuit) then the charges get moving to compensate for it immediately.

    Besides, it’s not true that ‘magnetic [field?] and electricity are perpendicular to each other’.
    As I said above, the _force_ is perpendicular to the _current_, we’re not talking fields here (even though in the most basic examples, the magnetic _field_ is perpendicular ti the electric _current_).
    Also, in electromagnetic waves, both _fields_ are indeed perpendicular to each other. But waves mean vibration: there is no global constant field, so no overall action. The only possible action is limited in size by the wavelength, for instance in antennas.

  34. Jon Hanford says:

    @ Dave Finton

    Your posts here are not in vain. I appreciated the Star Trek reference and was hoping someone might follow up on your excellent question about the possible dynamics of this ribbon. The answer may place important constraints on this phenomena and give astronomers some insight as to its nature.

    @Dr Flimmer

    Seems like someone here either didn’t read your earlier post about co-investigator Fichtner or simply chose to ignore it (the usual MO). Btw, do you or any others here know if a paper has been published regarding these observations and is a copy available?

  35. Anaconda says:

    @ DrFlimmer:

    Dr Flimmer wrote: “There is no need to mention specifically plasma physics, because everyone knows that it is obviously involved. And obvious things are not needed to be mentioned!”

    Really? It’s so obvious that it doesn’t need to be mentioned? In fact, seemingly there is a hostile reaction if it is mentiioned.

    Your statement doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Science is about explicitly stating the obvious, in fact, it is about qualitatively describing and explaining the obvious and quantitatively measuring the obvious.

    Manu wrote: “I foresee this objection: if there is an electric current, it surely means there is an electric field in the first place?”

    Yes, an electric current entails an electric field.

    Hanford wrote: “Seems like someone here either didn’t read your earlier post about co-investigator Fichtner or simply chose to ignore it (the usual MO). ”

    No, I didn’t ignore it and I read it.

    But simply mentioning that a researcher involved in the project is a plasma physicist adds little or nothing to a discussion for laymen, which, of course, these comments, here, on this post, most definitely are directed to.

  36. Manu says:

    Anaconda:

    Allow me to repeat myself:
    “a magnetic field acting on moving charges will create a current without any electric field (moving charges can be any overall movement of neutral matter with free charges: ionized gas, a piece of metal, seawater…)”

    Please elaborate if you disagree with what I actually wrote. Describe (in words or math) the electric field in this case. If I’m proved wrong I’ll apologize.

  37. Aqua says:

    I like Hannes Alfren’s experiments with liquid mercury to help explain the concept of magnetohydrodynamics. I especially like where he tried to create waves on the surface of a pool of mercury by shaking the BOTTOM of the pool. A mirror floating on the mercury showed no motion. Then he applied a vertical magnetic field to the mercury and the shaking at the bottom of the pool was instantly reproduced on the top of the pool….

  38. Aqua says:

    Hannes Alfren wrote in 1949:

    We have recently conducted some simple experiments with mercury in a magnetic field and observed several very curious and striking results.

    Everyone is acquainted with the “mercurial” behavior of mercury. If you tap the side of a vessel containing a pool of mercury, the surface quakes and ripples as if it were alive: We found that when we placed such a pool in a strong magnetic field of 10,000 gauss, its behavior instantly changed. It did not respond to jarring of the vessel; its surface stiffened, so to-speak. The magnetic field gave a curious kind of viscosity to the mercury. This was illustrated dramatically when we dipped the two ends of a bent metal wire into the liquid and moved them through-it. Ordinarily an object dragged through mercury moves as easily as through any liquid. But when the magnetic field was applied, the wire pulled the mercury with it, producing a big surge in the pool. It was like moving a stick through honey or syrup.

    This behavior is easily explained. The wire and the surface of the mercury between its ends form an electricity-conducting circuit. When the wire is moved across the magnetic field, it creates an electric current. Since an electric current always produces a magnetic field, the new current creates a second magnetic field. This interacts with the one we have already applied to the pool of mercury, just as, two magnets attract or repel each other. The force between the two magnetic fields opposes the motion which is producing the current. As a result the wire sticks to the mercury as if it were a very viscous liquid.

    Let us now consider another experiment that disclosed a more remarkable and illuminating phenomenon. We fill a small tank with mercury. The tank has a movable bottom which can be rotated back and forth like the agitator in a washing machine. In the absence of a magnetic field, the slow oscillation of this agitator, stirring the mercury at the bottom of the tank, will not disturb the surface of the mercury at the top of, the tank; the mercury molecules slide past one another so that the motion dies out before it proceeds very far up the tank. A mirror floating on the surface, with a beam of light shined on it to show any slight movement, stays perfectly still. When a strong vertical magnetic field is applied to the tank, however, the motion at the bottom is quickly communicated to the top.

    What we have created here is a new kind of wave, which was predicted theoretically about ten years ago but was actually produced for the first time in this experiment. The wave is the result of a coupling between magnetic and hydrodynamic forces. When, the mercury at the bottom moves in the magnetic field, it generates electric currents. These currents, with there attendant magnetic fields, produce mechanical motion in the mercury immediately above, which in turn creates new currents that act on the next layer. Thus the movement is communicated up through the whole body of the liquid. This rising wave of motion is called a magnetohydrodynamic wave. It has three characteristics: it produces (1) mechanical motion, (2) a magnetic field, and ( 3 ) an electric field.

    What has all this to do with the stars? It is possible to show that our mercury model reproduces many of the essential properties of stellar matter. To be sure, the magnetic fields in the stars are very much weaker than the 10,000 gauss of our experiment ( the sun’s general field is estimated at between 1 and 25 gauss). But our theory tells us that if we made the vessel larger, we could produce the magnetohydrodynamic effects with a smaller magnetic field; the magnetic force required would decline in proportion to the increase in size of the vessel. Hence in a star, which is, say, 10 billion times as large as our experimental vessel, the magnetic field need be only one 10-billionth of the laboratory field. The stars’ fields are much stronger than this.

  39. Aqua says:

    I hope that makes thing a little clearer… ~@; )

  40. Aqua says:

    I hope that makes things a little clearer… ~@; )

  41. Anaconda says:

    “[T]he existence of the ribbon is ‘remarkable’ says Geoffrey Crew, a Research Scientist at MIT and the Software Design Lead for IBEX. ‘It suggests that the galactic magnetic fields are much stronger and exert far greater stresses on the heliosphere than we previously believed.’

    The discovery has scientists thinking carefully about how different the heliosphere could be than they expected.”

    The quotes are from the following linked article:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/17/discoveries-from-the-ibex-satellite-show-we-still-dont-know-quite-a-few-things-about-the-heliosphere-and-solar-system/

    An interesting statement from the University of Chicago and a press release on IBEX from Boston University.

    Dr Flimmer, you were right, both the Univ. of Chicago and Boston University discuss plasma physics…

  42. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    @ Anoconda,
    More and more claptrap, eh!
    Just posting yet another mind numbing useless link, eh? Nothing beats quoting from reliable sources. Yet another EU jackass backing up another even sillier EU jackass.

    Really… Should we trust someone who has be proven as a fabricator of information, who spins half-truths and misinformation, and just has an agenda to recruit others towards propping up his own sick delusions?

    At least this thread has positively proven one thing, you now know how to spell heliopause properly!

    Once a jackass, always a jackass, I suppose…

  43. damian says:

    The one wonderful thing about this new observation is it enlightens our understanding of the solar system as a traveling entity through the galaxy. Perhaps like a spaceship might in a fiction.

    Our solar system is traveling @ 220 Kilometers per second through a Hot interstellar cloud of dust roughly 30 light years across that in its entirety is as hot as the surface of the sun (6000 °C). The cloud is most likely the remnant of a supernova.

    Our nearest neighboring Stars are also in this cloud at around 10 light years away. Alpha Centauri, Altair, Vega, Fomalhaut and Arcturus. Are all being subject to the same interstellar weather.

    (source: Wikipedia)

    It is entirely possible that our heliosphere ribbon is a chance encounter with eccentricities of this hot dust cloud.? The great thing about IBEX is in about 6 months we will have new data.

    My own initial thought was if there is any correlation with sunspot activity. But I’m not a scientist. So its just a muse.

    Something to note, for all us ordinary plebs, It’s great to have science frame our place in the galaxy. I never thought about it in years past, but as we discover more it fascinates and inspires me. I hope I’m not the only one.

    The analogy may be early seafaring explorers who had no vision of what lay beyond the horizon, The horizon for me is now beyond the Heliosphere. 🙂

    Damian

  44. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    It has come to my notice that this article illustrates a competition between two world views. [No, I’m not talking about EU silliness vs science reality. 😀 Time for that later.]

    The second IBEX figure paints the measurement on a classical teardrop shaped heliosphere. Presumably shaped by trailing flow lines of various kinds, as the heliosphere travels in interstellar space.

    The third NASA figure paints at least the termination shock as an ellipsoid bubble. I thought that was a simplification for ease of understanding, but maybe they know something I did not:

    “Images from one of the Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument’s sensors, the Ion and Neutral Camera (MIMI/INCA), on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft suggest that the heliosphere may not have the comet-like shape predicted by existing models.

    “These images have revolutionized what we thought we knew for the past fifty years; the sun travels through the galaxy not like a comet but more like a big, round bubble” said Stamatios Krimigis, principal investigator for MIMI, which is orbiting Saturn. “It’s amazing how a single new observation can change an entire concept that most scientists had taken as true for nearly fifty years.”

    As the solar wind flows from the sun, it carves out a bubble in the interstellar medium. Models of the boundary region between the heliosphere and interstellar medium have been based on the assumption that the relative flow of the interstellar medium and its collision with the solar wind dominate the interaction. This would create a foreshortened “nose” in the direction of the solar system’s motion, and an elongated “tail” in the opposite direction.

    The INCA images suggest that the solar wind’s interaction with the interstellar medium is instead more significantly controlled by particle pressure and magnetic field energy density.

    “The map we’ve created from INCA’s images suggests that pressure from a hot population of charged particles and interaction with the interstellar medium’s magnetic field strongly influence the shape of the heliosphere,” says Don Mitchell, MIMI/INCA co-investigator at APL.”

    Seems these hot ions/neutrals are important, and carve out a Star Trek “raised shield” in the interstellar media more than a passive flow picture would tell. [Yes, I’m trying to impart as much dynamics in this as I can, dynamical processes strikes me as the naive explanation.]

  45. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    And now time for silliness and seriousness.

    @ earls:

    Citation?

    My point exactly, where are the EU citations that show that EM processes affects cosmology or other large-scale processes or objects? No EU proponent can show us actual scientific work.

    EM has absolutely nothing to do with the single largest structure

    First, let us first correct the error here. The Sun gravitational field or the heliosphere itself are both larger structures.

    Second, no one denied that EM fields by themselves can be huge, they stretch towards infinity. But this is a good demonstration of how relatively unimportant EM processes are. What does this current sheet do? Absolutely no large-scale difference, besides existing:

    A small electrical current flows within the sheet, about 10?10 A/m². […] The underlying magnetic field is called the interplanetary magnetic field, and the resulting electric current forms part of the heliospheric current circuit. […] Near the surface of the Sun, the magnetic field produced by the radial electric current in the sheet is of the order of 5×10?6 T. The magnetic field at the surface of the Sun is about 10-4 tesla. […] The heliospheric current sheet results in higher order multipole components so that the actual magnetic field at the Earth due to the Sun is 100 times greater. [“Heliospheric current sheet”, Wikipedia.]

    As a comparison to the resulting Sun M field of 10^-9 T instead of 10^-11 T at Earth, Earth’s own field is 10^-5 to 10^-4 T at Earth surface.

    Another demonstration is in the comment I made on the Cassini observations. Note the putative importance of charged particle impulse flow (“pressure”) in shaping the heliosphere, with the magnetic field playing second fiddle to mass and velocity in this shaping.

    This discovery was predicted by EU.

    Again: references, connecting it with an actual EU theory and those putative EU scientists, wherever they are.

  46. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    @ Anaconda:

    offered a few points of analysis

    No, a “random list of magnetic effects”. If you don’t agree, point out the analysis and walk through how it connects to previously declared EU belief.

    This point covers your comment from “Larsson wrote” to “star formation”.

    Torbjorn Larsson OM can’t help himself and continues to rail on against EU

    Provide statistics that shows that my behavior must be an involuntary reaction. You haven’t established that.

    [Actually, this thread provides a falsification. My first comment lead on the article, not EU beliefs.

    But I would like to see an EU believer try to provide a fact, for once in his life.]

    As regard the later observation, my “railing” is a consequence of my active stance against anti-science crackpotism. As much as any of these crackpots want to feel singled out and “special” (cue the “Galileo defense” – or as here, the “Hamlet strawman” to cover up the appeal to motive fallacy), it is a mistaken belief.

  47. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    @ Dave Finton:

    So much for my attempt at starting this thread on a light-hearted note. O_o

    Oh, I think you did a LOL job! \(^_^)/

    @ Magnetic:

    I have been taught all my life by science that magnetic fields and electricity are connected.

    To complement to what HSBC and Manu so eloquently described, let me make some notes:

    – This connection is, as I will never tire to point out [“hear the groans!”], really an awesome low-velocity relativistic effect.

    We just happen to be used to it and conveniently describe magnetism as a fictive force akin to when we describe gravity as a fictive force.

    [In reality of course gravitation is effectively a curving of space-time, which for example photons as mass-less particles follows without noticing any force.]

    As an analogy, to see relativity at every day speeds is pretty much as if we would see quantum effects in every day objects, say superconductivity in every conductor. o/ o_

    – About those magnetic fields: they aren’t as strong as electric fields. Sorry to deflate your handle value. (-_-)

    A magnetic field is inherently a dipole field to its highest order (N and S, source and sink always together), which means it usually goes as r^-3 instead of r^-2 as monopole fields such as electric fields are to highest order.

    [Voluntary side note: When Our Snake makes obeisance to plasmas and magnets, he is then in fact but praying to a lesser demigod in the hierarchy of forces. As we try to point out in the “little large-scale explanation” thread.

    Well, perhaps better the devil you know. But as he obviously knows squat about science and has shown himself a prime exemplar of ignorants, which are known from observations to be too ignorant to be able to learn – at all – one wonders what the fixation is really about. Or not. o.O]

  48. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    “an awesome low-velocity relativistic effect” – an awesome low-velocity relativistic effect of moving charges.

  49. Anaconda says:

    Larsson wrote: “When Our Snake makes obeisance to plasmas and magnets, he is then in fact but praying to a lesser demigod in the hierarchy of forces.”

    Hmmm???

    The IBEX scientific articles speak for themselves.

    Dr. Anthony Peratt of the Los Alamos National Laboratory authors several peer reviewed papers that discuss and analyze large-structure phenomenon in deep-space from a Plasma Universe perspective.

    World Science Data base:

    http://www.worldnpa.org/php2/index.php?tab0=Scientists&tab1=Display&id=646

    * Note Dr. Anthony Peratt’s curriculum vitae in the link.

    Naked hostility does little to further a point of view.

  50. DrFlimmer says:

    @ DrFlimmer:

    Dr Flimmer wrote: “There is no need to mention specifically plasma physics, because everyone knows that it is obviously involved. And obvious things are not needed to be mentioned!”

    Really? It’s so obvious that it doesn’t need to be mentioned? In fact, seemingly there is a hostile reaction if it is mentiioned.

    Your statement doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    The hostile reaction critically depends on the person who said the word “plasma physics”. I think, noone here will dispute the significance of plasma physics in astronomy. Still, it is less significant on large-scale structures and has a larger influence on smaller scales.

    Science is about explicitly stating the obvious, in fact, it is about qualitatively describing and explaining the obvious and quantitatively measuring the obvious.

    It is not necessary always to scream out: “This could have something to do with plasma physics”, because everyone knows that it has. A paper will never start like “Plasma physics is highly important for this research concerning the sun and the heliosphere” (e.g.). In order to talk about the sun and the heliosphere you NEED to solve equations related to plasma physics (MHD, e.g.). One talks about charged particles and magnetic fields, it wouldn’t make much sense to talk about the strong force, would it?

    Hanford wrote: “Seems like someone here either didn’t read your earlier post about co-investigator Fichtner or simply chose to ignore it (the usual MO). ”

    No, I didn’t ignore it and I read it.

    But simply mentioning that a researcher involved in the project is a plasma physicist adds little or nothing to a discussion for laymen, which, of course, these comments, here, on this post, most definitely are directed to.

    It was just to mention the “obvious” thing that this is related to plasma physics and that plasma physicists are involved in this research.
    Btw: Why are you contradicting yourself? On the one hand you want the obvious “plasma physics”, but when I actually mention it (explicitly for you), then it is too obvious and should have been let aside.
    And, I think, even for a layman it is interesting, who is part in this research – why not?

  51. DrFlimmer says:

    Btw: As far as I know, there are actually TWO papers. The problem is that they are submitted to Science, which will make them unavailable for most of the readers here. If someone finds them (at Science or on arxiv), please post the links. Thanks.

  52. Anaconda says:

    @ Dr Flimmer:

    Yes, I appreciated your mentioning the researcher’s plasma physics training.

    That was all well and good and didn’t need a response. In hindsight, I could have acknowledged your comment, my bad.

    It was only when you used that mention as a justification for failing to explicitly discuss the plasma physics aspects (which seem significant) of this observation & measurement that I objected.

    A nuanced approach seems in order.

    For both sides of the discussion 🙂

  53. Anaconda says:

    Additional quotation from Physics World:

    “According to McComas [IBEX Principal Investigator], the ribbon seems to be full of charged particles, which seem to have been concentrated along its length –- but how they got there is a mystery.

    IBEX data suggest the alignment of the ribbon is related to the local interstellar magnetic field, which could mean that its origins lie outside of the solar system. The ribbon also appears to have a fine structure, suggesting that the ion concentrations vary along its length.”

    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/40676

    So, the ribbon is not made-up exclusively of neutral atoms.

  54. Anaconda says:

    “These images have revolutionized what we thought we knew for the past fifty years; the sun travels through the galaxy not like a comet but more like a big, round bubble” said Stamatios Krimigis, principal investigator for MIMI, which is orbiting Saturn. “It’s amazing how a single new observation can change an entire concept that most scientists had taken as true for nearly fifty years.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091016101807.htm

  55. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Again more fictions upon more fictions as stated by Anaconda.

    Again, magnetic fields are important, but they are not highly significant to explaining nearly all of known astronomical phenomena. It is totally wrong to suggest that phenomena is exclusive to plasma physical.

    As for him saying “So, the ribbon is not made-up exclusively of neutral atoms.” Cherry-picking, again. .

    No one has said this, nor has even suggested such a premise. Saying this repeatably so is very disingenuous.

    As for saying “Naked hostility does little to further a point of view.” is yet another delusion.

    Much of the hostility is YOUR OWN DOING.

    How many times does someone have to explain that you are WRONG in your views of plasma physics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It is clear that plasma has just been hijacked by individuals who haven’t got a clue about actual science or astrophysics.Bashing everyone over the head with you usual diatribe is not going to work, and nobody is going to let you get away with it – especially me.

    Pretending otherwise just makes you look foolish!

  56. IVAN3MAN says:

    I’m a late arrival to this bloody rowdy party, because I’ve had more important business to attend to, and I haven’t all the comments, but here goes…

    Anaconda:

    SBC presents my (Anaconda’s) comment: “Of course, magnetic fields are caused by electric current, as confirmed by NASA: “Moreover, electric current causes magnetic fields (see Electromagnetism)…”

    And SBC responds: “Who needs NASA to confirm this?? Even a very young elementary school kid knows this to be true!!”

    Silly me for remembering IVAN3MAN’s constant attack when I’ve pointed out the ubiquitous presence of magnetic fields in deep-space before on this website. But Hey, SBC, I’m happy you and I agree on something

    Err… dude, NASA did not say that electric currents are the only cause of magnetic fields — remember intrinsic magnetism of elementary particles? No, you probably ignored that fact, which I had explained to you on previous threads, as usual!

    Also, care to explain what is the “Electric Universe” belief, er… sorry, ‘hypothesis’ is as to the source/cause of the ubiquitous interstellar/galactic magnetic fields, hmm?

  57. IVAN3MAN says:

    D’OH! In the second line, it should read: “… and I haven’t read all the comments…”

    Hey, administrators! Can we have a preview/edit facility here, before I end up killing somebody?!

  58. Nexus says:

    Don’t worry, Ivan. People will be able to follow you even if you do make the occasional typo or miss a word.

  59. Anaconda says:

    Crumb,

    Relax…

  60. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    Anaconda said; “Relax”
    Just to let you know I am.

    Really. We know your EU stance is mostly totally preposterous and silly, and I already know that your halcyon days are already numbered.

  61. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    This problem does involve plasma physics. So on the face of it Anaconda is not completely off the mark. He just illustrates some strange thinking. He seems to feel that NASA is making a ground breaking statement by saying “Magnetic fields are caused by electric currents,” when this really was found in the mid 19th century by Michael Faraday.

    To lay down the cards, this does involve plasma physics. It involves the magnetohydrodynamics of the interstellar medium and the region of the heliopause, which is much smaller. The heliopause is in motion relative to the interstellar ionized MHD region and there is a complicated interaction.

    I might suggest a simple way to look at this and how this might be modelled. The galactic magnetic field has a certain energy density. The heliopause is moving through it and lines of magnetization are being pulled apart along a region where the galactic magnetic field is tangent to the heliopause. See the picture above. This requires energy, so the motion of the heliopause is reducing the magnetic flux in these tangential regions. The energy or work the heliopause exerts on the galactic magnetic field then has to go somewhere. That energy then appears to be going into the motion of charged particles in the KeV domain of energy.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  62. Aqua says:

    Have you heard? Monopole magnetic fields have been created in the lab… nice! ‘The other side of the coin’ has been flipped. A challenge to understand the implications? Mirror matter anyone?

  63. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    This is a sort of pseudo-magnetic monopole. Quantum Hall effects with certain materials can result in a magnetic dipole, but where one of the poles is topologically removed by the matieral in a way which gives the appearance of a magnetic monopole.

    LC

  64. Paul Eaton-Jones says:

    I’ve just had a quick look at the Wattsup…. site. Man, I’m gobsmacked. According to one poster the sun is a clothed neutron star which accounts for the low neutrino count and the ribbon at the edge of the solar system is apparently the debris left over from when the sun went supernova but only along its equator.

  65. Homme du Sud says:

    Paul Eaton-Jones, I never thought about it that way. Could be on to something there!!! 😉

  66. Nereid says:

    Two things.

    First: Anaconda is an utterly unreliable commenter … he is on record as defining “current” (as in electrical current) in a way that is not only non-standard and idiosyncratic, but also so different from the way the term is used by his heroes (Alfvén, Peratt, etc) that his loud proclamations of support for them become fatal blows to his very own words (reference available upon request).

    Second: not one EU cult member has taken the cult leader, Don Scott, to task over his prominent, unambiguous declaration that astronomy, as a science, is impossible (certainly not a peep from Anaconda). This is a truly extraordinary state of affairs, not least because almost everything EU cult members quote – from NASA PRs say – is based upon the validity of astronomy, as a science.

    To remind readers of cult-leader Scott’s astonishing fatwa: “There is no way that a measurement taken at only one end of a transmission channel can reveal changes that have occurred farther up the channel.” In other words, to take just one example, unless you can check out the photons as they leave the Sun’s photosphere (say), merely detecting them here on Earth tells you nothing whatsoever about what has happened to those photons on their journey from Sun to Earth (and hence nothing about their state at origin).

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