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Published:July 15th, 2013 16:35 EST
NASA Satellite Imagery Sees the Tail of the Solar System in the Shape of a Four-Leaf Clover

NASA Satellite Imagery Sees the Tail of the Solar System in the Shape of a Four-Leaf Clover

By Ron G Anselm

Maybe, we all live within a solar system that is full of luck. What I mean by this is NASA`s imagery satellite has just discovered that our solar system does come equipped with a tail that is shaped like a four-leaf clover. If anyone believes in luck (or is Irish) then you have to say our solar system may have the power to spread luck to every dark corner of space and to spread luck boldly where no man has gone before (for you Star Trek fans) Aren`t four leaf clovers supposed to be lucky?

NASA`s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) has for the first time in history mapped out the structure of the solar systems tail. Scientists have described the tail as a helio tail. The particles that make up our solar systems tail are located in what is known as the heliosphere or the region of space that is influenced by our sun. Those particles are hard to spot because they do not give off any reflective matter which means they do not shine very well to be spotted very easily. This means they cannot be easily spotted with conventional instruments.

David McComas, IBEX principal investigator at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas commented on this by saying, "By examining the neutral atoms, IBEX has made the first observations of the heliotail many models have suggested the heliotail might look like this or like that, but we have had no observations. We always drew pictures where the tail of the solar system just trailed off the page, since we couldn`t even speculate about what it really looked like." (McComas, D.)

 IBEX measures the neutral particles that are created by collisions within the solar systems boundaries. This technique is known as energetic neutral imaging. It relies on the fact that paths of neutral particles are not affected by the solar systems magnetic field. The particles normally travel in a straight line from collisions to IBEX. Scientists observe where these particles come from which describes what is going on in these types of distant regions.

Arik Posner who is a NASA`s IBEX program scientist in Washington said, "Since first light in 2008, the IBEX mission team has amazed us with its discoveries at the interstellar boundary, including a previously unknown ribbon of energetic neutral particles stretching across it. The new IBEX image of the heliotail fills in a previously blank area on the map. We are first-hand witnesses of rapid progress in heliophysics science." (Posner, A.)

The tail is made of a combination of fast and slow moving particles. There are two lobes within the tail. The two lobes with the slower moving particles are on the sides and the faster moving particles are above and below the top and bottom area of the tail. The four-leaf clover shape comes from the fact that the sun has been sending out fast solar winds near its poles and slower winds near its equator for the last few years. This pattern is normal for the sun and is part of the most recent phase of the suns eleven-year activity cycle.

The four-leaf clover shape of the solar systems tail is not perfectly aligned with the solar system and does rotate slightly which more than likely means when it moves further away from the sun the suns magnetic influence and the charged particles begin to be nudged into a new orientation which is attributed also to the magnetic fields having influence on the tail from the local galaxy.

So, whether the rediscovery of gold just happened or NASA discovered our large solar system does have a lucky tail in the shape of a four-leaf clover, it doesn`t matter, gold had been sitting under the noses of settlers out West for hundreds of years when it was finally discovered and our solar system has always had a tail waving briskly in the no man`s land of space until NASA just recently discovered it. What matters is that we finally discovered that there is more to our solar system than just planets, stars and comets that roam freely in a vast space of potential scientific discovery.

                                                                           Reference

 NASA Satellite Provides First View of the Solar System`s Tail, (http://www.nasa.gov/ibex) Retrieved 2013.

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