"Shocking" find may redraw picture of solar system's cosmic shield.
for National Geographic News
Published May 10, 2012
The sun is moving through the Milky Way slower than previously thought, according to new data from a NASA spacecraft.
From its orbit around Earth, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) satellite measured the speeds of interstellar particles entering at the fringes of our solar system, 9 billion miles (14.5 billion kilometers) from the sun.
(Related: "'Alien' Particles Found Invading Our Solar System—A First.")
Plugging the new data into computer models, the IBEX team calculates that the sun is moving at about 52,000 miles (83,700 kilometers) an hour—about 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers) slower than thought.
The discovery suggests that the protective boundary separating our solar system from the rest of the galaxy is missing a bow shock, a major structural component thought to control the influx of high-energy cosmic rays.
The sun is constantly sending out charged particles in all directions, forming a cocoon around the solar system called the heliosphere.
According to McComas, some researchers believe that the cosmic rays that do get through the heliosphere can impact Earth's climate, because the high-energy particles can ionize—or electrically charge—matter in the atmosphere, leading to heightened cloud formation and lightning generation.
Other experts think the particles could even be related to bursts of evolution or extinction in our planet's history, because the radiation can influence DNA patterns.
some interesting hypothesis in this article..blessings T
From the Ibex page:
Cosmic raysCharged atomic particles moving in space with very high energies (the particles travel close to the speed of light); most originate beyond the solar system, but some of low energy are produced in solar flares. can seriously damage DNA. If DNA damage cannot be repaired by the cell, the cell could die. If the damage is copied into more cells, then a mutation could occur. Exposure to large amounts of cosmic rays could increase the risks for cancer, cataracts and neurological disorders. Long term exposure to cosmic rays, or short intense bursts, could affect the evolution of life on Earth.
Discovered: Cosmic Rays from a Mysterious, Nearby Object
Nov. 19, 2008: An international team of researchers has discovered a puzzling surplus of high-energy electrons bombarding Earth from space. The source of these cosmic rays is unknown, but it must be close to the solar system and it could be made of dark matter. Their results are being reported in the Nov. 20th issue of the journal Nature.
"This is a big discovery," says co-author John Wefel of Louisiana State University. "It's the first time we've seen a discrete source of accelerated cosmic rays standing out from the general galactic background."
Galactic cosmic rays are subatomic particles accelerated to almost light speed by distant supernova explosions and other violent events. They swarm through the Milky Way, forming a haze of high energy particles that enter the solar system from all directions. Cosmic rays consist mostly of protons and heavier atomic nuclei with a dash of electrons and photons spicing the mix.
artist rendering at link
Incoming Cosmic Rays Hit Record High
October 19, 2010
The Earth was pummeled with record-setting levels of cosmic rays in 2009. Measurements from NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) and other spacecraft found that more high-energy particles from galactic space penetrated the inner solar system in the last few years than at any other time since the beginning of the space age.
The spike is almost certainly due to several weird aspects of the most recent solar minimum, and could be the start of a new normal for cosmic ray levels.
“It’s sort of like everything’s working in the same direction right now, to allow cosmic rays greater access to the inner solar system,” said space scientist Richard Mewaldt of Caltech. Mewaldt and colleagues published their findings Oct. 7 in Astrophysical Journal Letters.