The New Horizons spacecraft which was launched by NASA a good 12 years back in 2006, is currently near the outer edges of the Solar System and is well over a distance of 6.5 billion km from the Earth.
The spacecraft has detected a big wall of hydrogen that surrounds the entire solar system. This could well be the furthest reach of our sun.
A report by Gizmodo claims that when the Voyager passed through this same region close to three decades ago it too had made similar measurements. The data provided by the New Horizons provides further more information about how far the Sun’s energy stretches.
Randy Gladstone, a study author of the Southwest Research Institute said that they assume there is something extra out there, like some extra source of brightness and if they get a chance with New Horizons they can maybe image it and get more information about it.
The report says that, the Sun fires off charged particles outwards which causes hydrogen particles in the Solar System to discharge ultraviolet light. However the Sun’s energy eventually weakens and creates a very clear boundary line where all the interstellar hydrogen piles up. NASA has found this at the very edge of the Solar System. The outward pressure exerted by the solar wind energy piles up hydrogen gas.
The astronomers used New Horizon’s “Alice” to get a 360 degree-view of all the UV emissions. It was observed that when Alice was trained at a direction that was directly away from the Sun, they were able to see a much higher intensity and brightness of the signals. Researchers think that the boost in the signal could well be from the hydrogen wall which is beyond the Solar System. There is a definite boundary that has been created with the interactions of solar wind with material just outside the Solar system.
More than three decades ago, the Voyager had measured similar signatures. The researchers observed on having a look at the data collected back then that the Voyager’s operators likely overestimated the signal’s strength. Now that the Voyagers data has been recalculated, the New Horizon results look quite identical.
The New Horizons spacecraft is currently in the Kuiper Belt. It is waiting for a flyby of a rock which is approximately 30 kilometers across. After this it will be headed for the Oort clouds.
The journal, Geophysical Research Letter had covered this study for the first time.