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Space Science

Giant Ribbon Discovered At Edge of Solar System 251

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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  • Bah, hack scientists (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skornenicholas ( 1360763 ) <> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @05:51PM (#29780201) Homepage
    We already KNEW about this, it is called the Great Galactic Barrier []
    It's just the little one for each solar system, and these guys get federal grant money!
  • Easy... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by popo ( 107611 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:06PM (#29780299) Homepage

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

  • Re:Star Trek did it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BearRanger ( 945122 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:55PM (#29780605)

    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.

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

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @07:04PM (#29780675) Homepage Journal
    Could this be the cause of the Long-delayed echoes? []
  • 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 Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @07:14PM (#29780731) Homepage Journal
    Right, too far. We'd be looking for features closer to Earth's orbit. Never mind.
  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @07:28PM (#29780793) Homepage 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. It would be like expecting to determine the shape of the Mid Atlantic Ridge from two Bathyscaphe dives.

  • 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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 17, 2009 @10:45PM (#29781573)

    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:Prediction (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:18AM (#29782057) Homepage

    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. For instance, the statement "Let there be light!" is really about the best summary of the beginning of the universe until the 1930s when Georges Lemaitre [] -- a Catholic priest, mind you -- refined it into modern Big Bang theory. (Yeah, and you thought the Catholics were all anti-science just because Pope Urban VIII was too much of a 17th-century Italian nobleman to let Galileo insult him in the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Not so much. A tragedy, yeah, but it was more about politics and calling the pope's guy "Simplicio" and making him stupid than it was really about science.)

  • 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: relax, its part of human experience, always was, and always will be

    of course, you're not alone in your transgression: plenty of religious folk miss the point about science, and think it somehow treads on science's turf

    genuine religion answers questions science can never answer. genuine science answers questions religion can never answer. science and religion never meet

    you lose when you begin to answer scientific questions with religion, or religious questions with science

    how peaceful and prosperous a society is is pretty much directly proportional to how many people get that essential separation about science and religion in their cognition

  • by nstlgc ( 945418 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @05:55AM (#29782967)
    Science gives you answers that can be proven. Religion gives you stories. It's true that there are questions that science (currently) cannot answer - but religion does not answer them either.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb