For at least a year now, NASA has been waiting with bated breath for Voyager 1 to pass through the boundary of our solar system and become our first emissary to the stars. It’s been cruising the edge for some time, but when it finally leaves forever, it won’t be a satisfyingly clear punch-through — so it’s hard to say exactly when this will happen. Or happened. Now the spacecraft is in another strange new zone, where the influx of cosmic particles has been ramping up by the week.
A small Earth-orbiting probe has sampled the interstellar wind for the first time, detecting four types of atoms that originated in distant stars and traveled across the universe. The new measurements from the Interstellar Boundary Explorer give astronomers a glimpse of the cosmos outside our sun’s sphere of influence, and provide some clues about how and where our solar system formed.
Our sun has been more active lately as it enters a new phase in its 11-year cycle, which is one reason we’ve seen a bunch of enormous coronal mass ejections and solar explosions in the past few months.
Not content with just stirring the pot in particle physics, CERN has embarked on an experiment aimed at addressing whether or not comic rays from deep space might be seeding clouds in Earth’s atmosphere, influencing climate change. The early findings are far from deciding the issue of whether climate change is man made or otherwise, but they have borne some interesting results. It turns out that cosmic rays could be influencing temperatures on Earth.
You probably didn’t wake up this morning wondering what happens to the antiprotons that must be created by the collision of cosmic rays with the upper atmosphere. But if you are one of the few who loses sleep over the fact that these antiprotons should be somewhere out there but have yet to be directly detected, we are happy to report that you can rest easy: Astrophysicists have finally found them trapped in an antiproton belt around the Earth.
For decades, scientists have believed there to be a fairly well-defined boundary at the edges of our solar system, a region where the sun appears only slightly brighter than the rest of the spangled heavens. But as they sail through the blackness, humanity’s most-traveled spacecraft, the Voyager probes, have learned the lines are anything but clear. The edge of the solar system may not be a smooth edge at all, but a turbulent moat of roiling magnetic bubbles.
A pair of particle physicists bust up a theory about cosmic rays and global warming
By Gregory Mone
Posted 04.07.2008 at 9:30 am 8 Comments
Yes, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that man is at the root of most of Earth's warming in the last five decades. Still, some researchers say the trend can be attributed to natural causes, including changes in the flux of cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere, but now, according to Physics World, a pair of U.K. particle physicists have dismissed that idea.
Scientists confirm that the most energetic particles in the universe originate far from our cosmic neighborhood
By Gregory Mone
Posted 03.21.2008 at 10:02 am 2 Comments
Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays carry more energy than any known particles in the universe, so we should probably all take it as good news that scientists have confirmed that they don't originate in our cosmic neighborhood. In fact, the majority of these rays—which are mostly hydrogen and helium—lose most of their juice on their way towards Earth because they interact with the cosmic microwave background radiation, the energetic leftover of the Big Bang.
(And forget about those crazy space-based solar mirrors)
By Nicole Dyer
Posted 02.16.2008 at 3:47 pm 21 Comments
AAAS 2008, Boston, MA
Sallie Baliunas, an astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is pointing to a slide called Interdecadal Magnetic Variability Berillium 10. Its supposed to communicate something about the relationship between the suns intensity and climate change. All I see is a collection of squiggly lines. It could be an EKG or a seismograph test. The man sitting next to me appears to be equally lost. Hes snoring. The woman next to him is staring at her shoelaces.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.