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Spacecraft Measurements Indicate Shifting Interstellar Wind 75

Weather on Earth might be shifting in part because of human activity, but larger context in which the Earth moves has some trends to deal with as well, according to new research published in Science and summarized by Science Now: "As Earth and the other planets orbit the sun, the solar system itself travels through space. Its slow journey is taking it though a wispy expanse of gas called the Local Interstellar Cloud. Now, astronomers have discovered signs of potential turbulence in the cloud, indicated by a shift in direction of helium atoms that flow into the solar system. If the shift is real and continues for hundreds to thousands of years—a dicey extrapolation—it could be a harbinger of more dramatic changes in our solar system, notes study co-author David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. ... To detect the wind shift, researchers drew on measurements by 11 spacecraft and satellites that have recorded directly or indirectly the flow of helium atoms into the solar system. Many kinds of atoms infiltrate the heliosphere, but helium is a particularly good tracer for all of them because it is abundant and typically survives in its uncharged, atomic state all the way to Earth’s orbit, [study co-author Priscilla] Frisch says."
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Spacecraft Measurements Indicate Shifting Interstellar Wind

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    it's coming for us. we're all dead! of course, we will be by the time it gets here.

    • by Cryacin ( 657549 )
      Yeah, I can see how being exposed to a flowing expanse of hot gas can be a problem.
    • it's coming for us. we're all dead! of course, we will be by the time it gets here.

      I can tell you're excited because you're starting to sound a little squeaky.

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 )

        Uh, whoever modded that guy's comment offtopic needs more coffee. It wasn't a hilarious joke and was kind of obvious, but it's on topic.

        OK, I guess I need to metamoderate...

        BTW, my comment is off topic (yes, I checked the "no bonus" buttons").

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:16PM (#44787499)
    See how bad global warming is getting? We are now even screwing with the weather in space!
    • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:25PM (#44787525) Journal

      Well, we knew it was only a matter of time with all the global warming happening on the other planets too. Maybe we can plant some trees in space or something?

      • by gagol ( 583737 )
        algea is more effective, we should start terraforming europa now!
    • The helium drops were coming down straight just a few hundred years ago, and now they're angled slightly differently... I hope we start hearing about helium rain in the House because this Syria stuff is boring.
    • The universe is doomed! Doomed!
      • by gagol ( 583737 )
        Yes, it is doomed. Our grand, grand, grand (x10^50000) children will have to do something about it. In ghe meantime, I suggest living a rich and fulfilling life!
        • Turn into floating machines, go back in time through some paradox machine, and kill their ancestors on behest of a crazy man on an flying aircraft carrier?
          • by gagol ( 583737 )
            Not sure what you are trying to say (frenchie here), but why not! Seems a sensible solution to some problem...
    • It's all a conspericy! The weather in space is causing the changes on Earth! There is no such thing as global warming - its a myth dreamed up by tree huggers!

    • I know you were trying to be funny (ha ha), but, now all the climate change deniers will latch onto this as "proof" that man has no part to play in climate change. Remember, there are two types of climate change deniers; A: those who have a profit motive, i.e. oil companies, coal producers, etc., etc. and B: those who are not well educated enough to understand the science behind it and buy into the propaganda of group "A". Why do you think the Republicans are cutting funding for education across the land
  • by wrackspurt ( 3028771 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @12:09AM (#44787693)
    It's actually a marker laid down by the Vogon construction fleet for the up coming Hyper Space Express Route.
    • by vjoel ( 945280 )

      It's actually a marker laid down by the Vogon construction fleet for the up coming Hyper Space Express Route.

      Nope. Eddies in the space-time continuum. ("And this is his sofa, is it?")

  • "Weather on Earth might be shifting in part because of human activity....".

    I think every /. article should start out with some click-baiting about something. Global warming, Mitt Romney, New Age of Linux, Trayvon Martin, the NSA, and so on. No matter how farfetched or ridiculous the link is just crowbar and shoehorn in something that gets those clicks. Get those clicks!

    • by gagol ( 583737 )
      Please dont get the National Spies Association in this, they do very important work! (/me try to cover reak huge smile)
  • by Jay Vollmer ( 2882139 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @12:29AM (#44787759)
    It's coming from uranus.
  • What could possibly go wrong now?

  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:53AM (#44787979)
    Note that the quoted article says absolutely nothing about "weather on Earth". It's talking about "dramatic changes in our solar system", i.e. a distortion in the shape of the termination shock, which lies 75 to 90 AU away from the sun. That is an effective boundary between the heliosphere and the ISM, where the solar wind and the interstellar wind are equally dominant.

    Neptune orbits at 30 AU, but the "solar system" is understood to extend at least to the Oort cloud, 50000 AU distant. Earth orbits at 1 AU which is well inside the heliosphere, where the solar wind is much more important. That's why these spacecraft have to look at neutral helium atoms, which are the only interstellar wind components that can actually make it down here without being deflected by solar magnetic fields. Outside the solar system they have a rough density of about ten helium atoms per mL.

    This has much less influence on the Earth's climate than the "sunspot activity" referred to by politicians, but you can expect to hear a lot of crap soon, e.g. "Weather on Earth might be shifting in part because of human activity, but larger context in which the Earth moves has some trends to deal with as well".
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Whether it's human-caused or not, we should be fighting pollution for its own sake. Even if it has no affect on global warming, we should be environmentally conscious.

  • In an unexpected turn of events, The GuardTimesPost Daily Speigel reports that recently detected changes in the solar wind are the results of heretofore covertly secret and highly clandestine spying activities by none other than the National Septuagenarian Association (NSA)!

    According to documents provided by Beatrice Snowden, former NSA Social Activities and Black Ops Administrator, NSA Director General Keith-Tricky-Dick Cheney personally authorized a highly trained cadre of HVAC technicians to construct

  • "Weather on Earth might be shifting in part because of human activity,"....It sort of starts to sound like Medivalist's cant, doesn't it?

    In the same sense that, for them, God suffused everything ("Glory be to God, the cow calved today and I didn't stub my toe!"), AGW is referenced ever-more frequently entirely out of context ("Humans are changing the climate, and my coffee was too hot this morning, I think I'll read the paper!").

    Funny, that.

  • No problem. We'll just change tack.

  • Turbulence As A Service ?
  • I have been saying this on /. for 10 years atleast! Now finally someone gets it, yes there are 3 orbits to the earth, the daily, and the yearly and the ??? which comes from the orbit we are in from the solar system spinning inside the galaxy, which "IT" could affect the gravity/orbit of the other 2.

    If you take a coin and put it on a table top to spin it and use your finger to spin it, you will see that eventually gravity will affect the orbit as it slows down, but if it did not slow down it would still be a

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.