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Space Science

Giant Ribbon Discovered At Edge of Solar System 251

Posted by kdawson
from the gift-wrapped dept.
beadwindow writes "NASA's IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft has made the first all-sky maps of the heliosphere and the results have taken researchers by surprise. The maps are bisected by a bright, winding ribbon of unknown origin: 'This is a shocking new result,' says IBEX principal investigator Dave McComas of the Southwest Research Institute. 'We had no idea this ribbon existed — or what has created it. Our previous ideas about the outer heliosphere are going to have to be revised.' Another NASA scientist notes, '"This ribbon winds between the two Voyager spacecraft and was not observed by either of them.'"
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Giant Ribbon Discovered At Edge of Solar System

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  • Tag this (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 17, 2009 @05:45PM (#29780155)

    startrekgenerations

  • Ribbon? (Score:5, Funny)

    by clone53421 (1310749) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @05:46PM (#29780163) Journal

    Bill Gates thought that he was being innovative. Who'd have guessed that God came up with it first?

    • Re:Ribbon? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:08PM (#29780309)
      Wait... If both statements are true. Bill Gates must be God! It would explain some of the weird things in DNA that don't seem to do anything but it doesn't work when you take them away....
      • by WiFiBro (784621)

        Bill Gates must be God?

        We are witnessing the birth of a new dogma: the Holy Quaternity.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Bill Gates must be God?

          We are witnessing the birth of a new dogma: the Holy Quaternity.

          You're late to the party, Bro.

          Catholics have been doing that with Mary for centuries now.

      • by Opyros (1153335)
        That sounds more like proof that Mel Kaye [wikipedia.org] is God.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by chemisus (920383)

        Wait... If both statements are true. Bill Gates must be God! It would explain some of the weird things in DNA that don't seem to do anything but it doesn't work when you take them away....

        It would also explain the cases where it doesnt work when you leave them in.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      Pioneer 10 & 11 did just fine with menus and tool-bars, you spoiled young wipper-snappers!
           

  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3&gmail,com> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @05:50PM (#29780193)
    The universe patched to 1.2, introducing Ribbon controls, because they collapse and expand in a visually appealing fashion. This helps the overlords better manage their multi-dimension MDI.
  • Bah, hack scientists (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skornenicholas (1360763) <skornenicholas@nOSpam.gmail.com> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @05:51PM (#29780201) Homepage
    We already KNEW about this, it is called the Great Galactic Barrier
    http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Galactic_barrier [memory-alpha.org]
    It's just the little one for each solar system, and these guys get federal grant money!
  • I predict that further study will reveal the ribbon encircles a giant gift-wrapped present under an enormous Christmas tree. These were not discovered previously, since the present was hidden in the cosmic closet ...
    • What about the jolly old man with white hair? I thought the Russians confirmed that God wasn't out there, though...

      • by ChipMonk (711367)
        Point of semantics: The Communists "proved" God wasn't out there.

        Of course, the only concurring "proof" also came from Communists. Even Carl Sagan wasn't so foolish as to admit a negative observation as positive proof.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by sg_oneill (159032)

          You can't prove all 'gods' dont exist, but pretty much all the 'gods' in the pantheon of human beliefs tend to have claims about them that can be tested, so far not looking good for the theists. We can pretty much rule out the biblical Judeo god (christianity, islam and judaism) because theres a LOT of claims about reality that contradict science (7 day creation, 6000 years old, giant wierd flood, space made of water, etc) The hindu conception is a little more plausible in terms of time spans, but still mak

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by FooAtWFU (699187)

            Alternatively.... some Christian groups can claim (to the horror of others) that the Bible is not the Truth. Rather, the Truth is the Truth, and the Bible is a book about truth, and humanity's relationship to it. This key distinction lets said groups avoid fundamentalism, and also means that the accuracy of the timelines in question is relatively inconsequential to the religion's understanding of itself and of the world.

            Noticing this, one may even begin appreciate a few Religious Claims from time to time

            • by h4rm0ny (722443)

              Alternatively.... some Christian groups can claim (to the horror of others) that the Bible is not the Truth

              My impression is that it's a great deal more than "some" Christians these days. The majority diverge from regarding the Bible as absolute Truth I should say, though that might be less so in the USA than elsewhere.

              And just to avoid making a pedantry post elsewhere, I'll roll in a comment to the GP that it's a six day creation, not seven. The seventh day was a well-earned rest and probably spent brow

          • 7 day creation, 6000 years old, giant wierd flood, space made of water

            1) None of those claims is part of Christianity. Biblical literalism rejected by theologians of the early church (e.g. St Augustine in the 4th century)
            2) Your argument is fallacious in any case as disproving one claim does not disprove any other claim not dependent on it. As far as I know no one has ever disproved any of the essential teaching of Christianity (and some, like original sin, appear to have been proved).

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by bvankuik (203077)

            unless its a truly unknowable god being proposed in which case why even bother, its not like theres any proposed negative outcomes from not caring.

            What about Chtulhu? Wanna test that? Some face hugging love?

          • science tells you how

            religion tells you why

            science tells you how the world works

            religion tells you how to live your life

            if you reject all traditional religion's codes of conduct, that doesn't mean you are nonreligious, it just means you follow your own unique religion. if you claim to follow no code of conduct, this is a religion as well. no, i'm not being lose with my semantics. rather, you are being phobic of a harmless word: "religion". don't be phobic in your conception of what religion really means: re

          • Re:Prediction (Score:5, Informative)

            by dotancohen (1015143) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @05:18AM (#29782835) Homepage

            We can pretty much rule out the biblical Judeo god (christianity, islam and judaism) because theres a LOT of claims about reality that contradict science (7 day creation, 6000 years old, giant wierd flood, space made of water, etc).

            Actually, when you read the Old Testament in the original Hebrew most of those contradictions disappear. They mostly came about in translations by trying to reuse existing Greek (then English) words (like water) for different concepts in the original. Ever heard about Moses' horns? Same phenomenon: inappropriate translation.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by t_ban (875088)

            The hindu conception is a little more plausible in terms of time spans, but still makes claims that don't hold up under the microscope. No idea about the Sikh concept. Budhism? I think you'll find the same problems with hinduism, but possibly compounded by different schools of thought. Admittedly I dont know much about the specific claims of much outside the judeo-christian-muslim religions ,but its not the point.

            Hmmm. So you

            o tackle three world religions one by one

            o trash all of them

            o admit you don't know much about any of them

            o claim that your ignorance is not the point, your uninformed opinions are still correct

            and you have been modded insightful. Well done, slashdot.

            FYI, Buddhism (note the spelling) does not speak of a god.

  • be careful (Score:5, Funny)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @05:53PM (#29780227)

    It's good we discovered this early on. If we were already launching interstellar ships, there's a very real danger that at least one crew member's latent ESP abilities would start to run amok after their ship tried entering the ribbon. And, even worse, it'd probably be one of the ship captain's oldest friends.

  • And no, not the Nexus. Classic Trek. The barrier at the edge of the galaxy. And like all good barriers they're designed to either keep something out, or to keep something in...

    I suppose the implication of Voyager not detecting it is that it wasn't there then. Guess the EBE's have noticed us after all.

    Oh yeah, for those who haven't caught on? :-) :-) :-)

    • by brunes69 (86786)

      Voyager never left the galaxy, or got anywhere near the edge, they just went to the other side of it.

      • Wrong Voyager. I meant the Voyager space probe discussed in the article. If you must have a Star Trek reference for that one call it V'ger.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          The Voyager space probe discussed in the article has come even less close to the edge of the galaxy than the fictional Voyager starship from Star Trek.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by BearRanger (945122)

            Sometimes literalists have a way of ruining the joke for everyone...

            Ribbon is to solar system as barrier is to galaxy. Simple as that. And if I were being literal I would have noted that V'ger was supposed to be Voyager 6, which of course doesn't (yet) exist. Then again I'm making jokes about Star Trek. None of it has any bearing on reality.

            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              Oh, that was a joke!

              Sorry, all the guys who posted jokes alluding to stories that talk about barriers actually around solar systems kind of spoiled yours.

        • by ls671 (1122017) *

          Yep indeed! it was obvious for an old f* like me that you were talking about V'ger ! ;-)

          Not sure what Star Trek Voyager is although I think I remember that it is some kind of a Star Trek fork like "Deep space nine".

          Thinking of it, isn't this the one where Mrs. Columbo is the captain of the ship ? ;-)

          I did not know that V'ger never left the galaxy although, Thanks !

  • God's evolving the strippers who jump out of the birthday cake when God pulls the ribbon! He's using evolution so it will be a surprise!

    Hey... makes as much sense as any other religion. Free sainthood for early supporters!

  • it's not a quantum leap to assume that other solar systems have them too. I wonder what more information we'll be able to learn about our system, and therefore be able to infer about other systems, due to this discovery.

  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:00PM (#29780263) Journal

    FTA:

    One important clue: The ribbon runs perpendicular to the direction of the galactic magnetic field just outside the heliosphere,

    It looks like the ribbon is a side effect of the interaction between the galactic magnetic field and the heliosphere. It's possible that the interaction between the two causes particles to either collect in that region or direct those particles from that region toward Earth.

    • TFA also stated that no one really knows what it is or how it's formed, so you can't really infer that because it runs perpendicular to the galactic magnetic field that it's a side effect of the two interacting. There are a number of unanswered questions about this, and only time will tell what it is or how it formed. Very big watch this space (sorry, couldn't help myself).

      • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:48PM (#29780565) Homepage

        I disagree. The probability of the ribbon running perpindicular to the galactic magnetic field is pretty low if it's a coincidence and it's not implausible that there are interactions between the heliosphere and the magnetic field (given that the heliosphere is set by plasma interactions and all, especially). So to infer that the galactic magnetic field plays a role is perfectly reasonable.

        Perhaps you mean that it isn't *proof* that the galactic magnetic field is responsible? (Which is true. Granted, there is no proof in science, just sometimes strong evidence. Which this isn't, either.)

        • by KillerBob (217953) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @07:13PM (#29780727)

          The thing being... we have a 2D view of a 3D object. From our perspective it runs perpendicular to the axis of the magnetic field. But without a second observation point that's far enough away from the original observation point, we can't actually know that it actually *is* perpendicular to the axis, or whether it's an optical illusion and really going off at some oddball angle.

          Just playing devil's advocate here. It certainly does look as though it's related to the galactic magnetic field, and I liked the suggestion of another poster, that it's basically just the galactic equivalent of Aurora Borealis. But at this point, we just can't *know* that it's related to the magnetic field at all. We could be seeing that giant floating ribbon from Star Trek: Generations.

          And my first thought was to the 1992 video game, Star Control II... the documentation that came with that game said that access to hyperspace was impossible within large gravity wells (such as those around stars), and that there was a visible shimmer when you got to the region of space where the transition between dimensions was possible... :)

          • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @08:12PM (#29780987) Homepage

            The thing being... we have a 2D view of a 3D object. From our perspective it runs perpendicular to the axis of the magnetic field. But without a second observation point that's far enough away from the original observation point, we can't actually know that it actually *is* perpendicular to the axis, or whether it's an optical illusion and really going off at some oddball angle.

            Again, sure. But we got what we got. And, once again, what's being suggested isn't that we know that these two things are connected. Merely that it'd be a heckuva coincidence if they weren't. If I hear a scream and rush around the corner to see someone unconscious on the sidewalk, I'm going to assume that the two are connected until I get further information suggesting otherwise. Certainly as I try to figure out what happened, that's my starting position. And similarly, the good folks working on this ribbon mystery are going to start by looking for ways of connecting the ribbon to the galactic magnetic field. They might be wrong. That might get them nowhere. But you start where the initial set of clues lead you and work from there.

            So, once again: no one is saying that we know that the two are connected. It's just a reasonably strong hint in the initial stages of investigating a new phenomenon.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ls671 (1122017) *

        I like the GP suggestion, in scientific thinking, you *need* to make hypothesis and try to validate them.

        What if the ribbons were just Galactic Northern Lights ? ;-))

        There is nothing wrong with trying to guess in science as long as you categorize your thoughts as hypothesis...

      • by Orne (144925)

        The last time I checked, the only field that runs perpendicular to a magnetic field is an electric field.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dhanson865 (1134161)

      It's possible that the interaction between the two causes particles to either collect in that region or direct those particles from that region toward Earth

      Other than it's where you live what is your fixation with the Earth? I'm assuming you should have said towards the SUN since it happens to be the center point of the system as a whole. Or am I missing something technical that somehow shows that the earth is specifically effecting this interaction?

      • The satellite orbits Earth. Particles moving toward the Sun can also move toward the Earth. If they were not moving toward the Earth we wouldn't have observed the ribbon.

  • Easy... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by popo (107611)

    It's just a warp signature. "They" weren't ready to make first contact.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gyrogeerloose (849181)

      No, it's a warning beacon advising more civilized species of interstellar travelers to keep away from from a star system inhabited by homo sapiens sapiens.

      • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Funny)

        by grcumb (781340) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @08:39PM (#29781095) Homepage Journal

        No, it's a warning beacon advising more civilized species of interstellar travelers to keep away from from a star system inhabited by homo sapiens sapiens.

        Actually, it's a banner. When we finally decipher it, we'll read, "Do Not Feed The Monkeys."

        Well, actually, ".syeknoM ehT deeF toN oD" If you know what I mean.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by dkf (304284)

          Actually, it's a banner. When we finally decipher it, we'll read, "Do Not Feed The Monkeys."

          I'd be happier if it said "Do Not Feed On The Monkeys" to be honest.

      • No, it's a warning beacon advising more civilized species of interstellar travelers to keep away from from a star system inhabited by homo sapiens sapiens.

        And the fact that we refer to ourselves as homo sapiens sapiens provides great mirth for Kang and Kodos.

  • ...just don't pull on either end!

  • by White Flame (1074973) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:17PM (#29780375)

    At last, we now know why the solar system is immune to status effects.

  • Ribbons, Spheres...
    We're all in the middle of a cosmic rhythmic gymnastics competition!
  • by Megatog615 (1019306) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:27PM (#29780433)

    And so begins Louis, Nessus, Teela, and Speaker's journey...

  • A ribbon? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:29PM (#29780445)

    What, can't a solar system look cute for photo day?

  • that is a stargate wormhole that has gone bad. OR they are trying to dial Destiny and need a lot of power.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:35PM (#29780485) Homepage Journal
    "Don't open before christmas"
  • by lousyd (459028) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:58PM (#29780629)

    This "ribbon" escaped detection by two former Voyager spacecraft, and is only now being detected by some new spacecraft that happened to be looking for something different. This "ribbon" is a ribbon by some specific property.

    It's amazing, to me, how what we see is influenced to a great extent by what we're looking for. The manifold possibilities the universe presents to us!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by argent (18001)

      I think they are only talking about the location of the Voyager spacecraft as a reference, I don't think there's any suggestion that they would have been expected to detect a large scale effect like this. It would be like expecting to determine the shape of the Mid Atlantic Ridge from two Bathyscaphe dives.

      • by hazem (472289) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @10:12PM (#29781485) Journal

        I think they are only talking about the location of the Voyager spacecraft as a reference, I don't think there's any suggestion that they would have been expected to detect a large scale effect like this

        Plus, I suspect the Voyager craft were not equipped to detect this particular phenomena. However, if they were colliding with a lot more particles than expected, or got caught in a flow of particles, over a long period of time, that might impact their trajectories.

        I've read that the courses Pioneer craft have changed in slow and unexplainable ways. I can't find if the Voyager craft have experienced the same thing. But maybe this phenomena could be part of the explanation.

        I just love how we keep finding new things that challenge what we knew before.

  • Long-delayed echoes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @07:04PM (#29780675) Homepage Journal
    Could this be the cause of the Long-delayed echoes? [wikipedia.org]
    • by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation@@@gmail...com> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @07:08PM (#29780695) Journal

      Long delayed echoes (LDEs) are radio echoes which return to the sender several seconds after a radio transmission has occurred.

      Unless someone has discovered faster than light communications, probably not.

    • by coryking (104614) *

      Wow. I never knew about this phenomenon. Thanks for the link--now you've got me reading everything I can find about it. Kinda creepy, actually.

    • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:17AM (#29782051) Journal

      Could this be the cause of the Long-delayed echoes?

      No, LDEs are are due to radio signals being trapped in an ionospheric/magnetospheric ionization duct. These are one to two kilometer diameter "tubes" of of low electron density that are aligned with the earth's magnetic field lines and extend from the F-region of the ionosphere in one hemisphere to the F-region in the opposite hemisphere. Radio signals originating in one hemisphere travel along one of these ducts and then are reflected off the top side of the ionosphere in the other hemisphere. They then travel back along the duct to the place of origin, resulting in the long-delayed echo.

      There's a pretty good article (from which I lifted most of this information) on this phenomenon in the November 2009 issue of QST magazine.

      KJ6BSO

  • Obviously, it's Miss Piggy's hair ribbon.
  • All hail (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bysshe (1330263) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @07:50PM (#29780881)
    All hail his noodly appendage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by AniVisual (1373773)

      Why is this modded funny? This is more evidence that Pastafarianism is the One True Religion. While the theorists scramble to explain the FSM's Right Arm, us believers get angry at the blindness of the other humans. What sacrilege to explain away all the evidence smack before your face with mumbo jumbo and treat our religion as a joke!

  • The Note (Score:5, Funny)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @08:02PM (#29780939) Journal

    "Please wear this ribbon on your planetary system in order to help us raise awareness. Awareness is such a precious commodity in galaxies of all colors, shapes and sizes, that we feel it only proper to honor the awareness that is within us all by taking this opportunity to mark those systems with nascent awarenesses with a ribbon. Hopefully by comparing our pre-aware planetary systems we can come to appreciate our own awareness and the source of that awareness, whatever form you may believe that it takes. Remember, it takes a spiral arm to raise a planetary system. Thank you again for raising awareness with this ribbon."

  • Gift (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @08:10PM (#29780975) Homepage

    It just means that life, the universe, and everything is a gift.

  • Seems God is AFK and we are seeing the screen saver.

  • Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @08:30PM (#29781059)

    Now we have a good reason to send some more Voyager probes out. The last two were certainly worth the cost, and it'd probably be a lot cheaper to build and launch a comparable probe today than it was when the first two were launched.

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:16PM (#29781237)

    Would these possibly be some sort of 'northern lights' phenomena? If the earth's magnetic field generates a phenomena at a planetary scale, why not a solar system generating a similar field that interacts with galactic particles?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If I understand the article correctly, Voyager 1 passed right above the ribbon and Voyager 2 passed just below the ribbon. Years ago NASA used Jupiter's gravity to send Voyager 1 above the plane of the solar system and Neptune's gravity to send Voyager 2 below the plane of the solar system, leading to both spacecraft just missing the ribbon.

    Maybe it was a mistake to send both spacecraft out of the ecliptic plane. Does anyone know the benefit NASA saw from sending both spacecraft out of the solar plane?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by osu-neko (2604)
      The ribbon's orientation does not correspond to the ecliptic. There would have been no benefit to keeping either of the Voyagers in the ecliptic, and the disadvantage would be they'd both be given identical angles on the solar system, and one identical to the one we already have, rather than each having its own angle and one different from our own ecliptic-bound view. Also, the data we get regarding how gravity perturbs them as they move would be substantially less useful.
  • Its just that the veil of the suns atmosphere seems to be way different than all largely accepted theories.

    Its not unknown dammit. Its just different. You all should relate.

  • Is it a ribbon, or the hem of The Great White Handkerchief?

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

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