Professor’s Findings Confirmed: Solar System Is Asymmetric

Posted: December 21, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

New observations from the Voyager 2 spacecraft, which on August this year crossed the edge of the solar system known as the termination shock, are confirming astronomy professor Merav Opher’s model of a bullet-shaped solar system.

Merav Opher
Merav Opher
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Opher, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and her colleagues Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology and Tamas Gombosi from the University of Michigan published a paper in Science magazine earlier this year that suggested the direction of the local interstellar magnetic field, located just outside of our solar system.

Their model also strongly suggested that the solar system is asymmetric. While scientists thought the northern and southern hemispheres would be similar, Opher’s team has found that the southern hemisphere is more compressed due to the pull of the magnetic field. Even the eastern and western hemispheres don’t look the same, giving our solar system more of a bullet shape.

Opher’s model was confirmed with data on the location of the termination shock as well as particle energy recently gathered by Voyager 2. Although Voyager 2 was preceded by Voyager 1, which crossed the termination shock in 2004, Voyager 2 had a working instrument that was able to measure plasma flows of the area. This instrument was not working on the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

“We are thrilled that Voyager 2 confirmed our model that the solar system is squashed by the interstellar magnetic field,” says Opher. “And now that we have data from two spacecrafts in this region, more surprises will come.”

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