According to a team of astronomers, it is now understood why particles from inside the solar system bounce off a “ribbon” of energy boundary and neutral atoms from that collision stream inward.
The strange band of energy, which astronomers say seems to wrap around the whole of the solar system, creates a sort of energy field that push particles inward. The ribbon of energy was discovered three years ago, the result of NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission. Since collection the data, astronomers and scientists around the world have struggled to identify the source of the barrier, and explain why particles seem to be driven back towards the sun.
Astronomers, through the use of models and theories, have put forth the so-called ”retention theory” that for the first time explains the key observation of the unexplained ribbon’s width.
The theory posits that mysterious band of energy exists in a location where neutral hydrogen atoms from the solar wind meet a local galactic magnetic field. Neutral atoms, which are not affected by magnetic fields, become charged ions when their electrons get stripped away, thus beginning the process of gyrating rapidly around magnetic field lines. The result: ions are aimed back toward the sun.
“Think of the ribbon as a harbor and the solar wind particles it contains as boats,” said Nathan Schwadron of the University of New Hampshire and lead author of the study. “The boats can be trapped in the harbor if the ocean waves outside it are powerful enough. This is the nature of the new ribbon model. The ribbon is a region where particles, originally from the solar wind, become trapped or retained due to intense waves and vibrations in the magnetic field.”