We Live In A Space Cloud

According to the latest data from IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX), we are slowly traveling through a thin cloud of interstellar material, but are close to the boundaries. IBEX’s measurements of interstellar hydrogen, oxygen, and neon are the first–ever detections of these atoms by any spacecraft.


(An artist’s rendition of a portion of our heliosphere
with the solar wind streaming out past the planets and forming a boundary as it interacts with the material between the stars.)

Our entire heliosphere, which contains our Sun, the planets, and everything else in our Solar System, is moving through the interstellar medium. Because of this motion, a sort–of "breeze" of interstellar material moves toward our heliosphere’s boundary. The interstellar neutral atoms are just that – "neutral" – meaning they do not interact with magnetic fields. ISNs [interstellar neutral atoms] move through the boundary of our heliosphere without the boundary affecting them...

There appears to be a network of gas and dust clouds in our local galactic vicinity. While very dilute and thin, the general positions of these clouds can still be measured. As our heliosphere (and everything in it) orbits the center of our galaxy, we pass into and out of these clouds at various times...

Based on Ulysses results, previous science teams had concluded that our heliosphere was located in between two of the nearby clouds, the "Local Cloud" and the "G-Cloud" and transitioning into a new region of space. However, while the boundary of the Local Cloud is very close, IBEX results show the heliosphere remains fully in the Local Cloud, at least for the moment. "Sometime in the next hundred to few thousand years, the blink of an eye on the timescales of the galaxy, our heliosphere should leave the local interstellar cloud and encounter a much different galactic environment," Dave McComas [IBEX Principal Investigator] says.

Astronomer Fred Hoyle wrote about interstellar clouds encompassing the Earth in his 1957 novel Black Cloud. In the story, an astronomy grad student named Knut Jensen was going about the rather prosaic work of looking for supernovae. In the 1950's, the best way to do this was to take a picture of a patch of sky, and then take another picture a month or so later. The two pictures (or photographic plates) were placed side-by-side in a device called a "blink comparator" (called a 'blinker' in the story). By glancing first at one and then the other, any stars that suddenly become brighter are easily seen.

In a rich star field was a large, almost exactly circular, dark patch.

Further study demonstrated that this cloud was moving directly toward the sun, and that it appeared to demonstrate intelligence. Scientists puzzled over how an intelligent entity could control an enormous gaseous nebula, and decided that it must be done through the manipulation of magnetic fields within the cloud of gas:

"I imagine that the beast orders the material of the cloud magnetically, that by means of magnetic fields he can move materials wherever he wants inside the cloud."
(Read more about magnetic control of nebulae)


(Earth menaced by a power beyond the planets and older than time!)

Similar space clouds have menaced Earth in novels like "Exit Earth" by Martin Caidin and in the short story "Transience" by Arthur C. Clarke.

Via the IBEX website.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/4/2012)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.

Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.

Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.' - Jack Williamson, 1933.

Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...' - James Blish, 1957.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Swarm Of Mindless Robots Works Together
'Very tiny pseudo insects that... can unite to form a superordinate system.'

SpotMini Robot Dog, Autonomous And On Sale In 2019
Great, an autonomous slamhound. It is cute, though.

RoboFly Is Laser-Powered, Adorable
Don't swat this fly!

MSG Sphere Las Vegas, ala Star Wars
'The smoky globe, hung in the vault, was shot with colored light...'

Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...

MIT Ampli Blocks Build Biomedical Devices
Damn it Spock, I'm a doctor not an engineer!

UberAIR Asks For Skytaxi Landing Prototypes
You know you want to ride in one.

Boring Tunnel Almost Ready
Your underground future is calling!

Handheld Human Skin Printer
It outputs a thin wad of uniflesh.

Healthy Fast Food Courtesy Of Robot Chefs
'The electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.'

Mass Production Of In Vitro Meat From One Sample
They're Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

Retinal Prosthesis Uses Organic Printing Inks
We can rebuild you - well, your eyes, maybe.

Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.

Squid-Like Robots Soon To Be 3D Printable
'It was a chemotactic artificial jellyfish designed to slither...'

Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.