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.
The European Space Agency announced its next two space science missions yesterday, and given recent events they may not come as a huge surprise. The first will orbit the sun, coming closer to the solar surface than any previous science spacecraft to measure the solar wind and its influence on the planets to an unprecedented degree.
Never mind using the solar wind to power spacecraft — that's old hat. Scientists at Washington State University want to use solar wind to power the entire world. A humongous solar sail could be used to harvest the power of solar winds, generating 1 billion billion gigawatts of electricity.
In a mission to learn more about the sun’s inner workings, NASA is planning to launch a specially shielded spacecraft in 2018 that will plunge into the solar atmosphere. The car-sized Solar Probe Plus will explore an area just 4 million miles from the star’s surface, the last region of the solar system to be explored by humans.
Maybe the moon isn't as inhospitable a place as we first thought when we landed there more than 40 years ago. First we found surface water at the lunar south pole, and now the the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 has found a miniature magnetic field on the moon's surface which could serve as a minimally protective barrier from the harsh solar winds that would greatly complicate habitation there.
Lost galactic hitchhikers can now rejoice when they visit our corner of the Milky Way. A new sky map created by a NASA spacecraft shows the boundaries of our solar system in comparison to the rest of the interstellar neighborhood.
The boundaries are defined by our sun's heliosphere -- a protective bubble created by the solar wind that travels outward and collides with incoming interstellar radiation. That typically invisible boundary became visible through energetic neutral atoms created in the region that speed toward the sun at velocities ranging up to 2.4 million mph.