“NASA’s twin Voyager probes keep making discoveries in interstellar space,” reports Space.com
The Voyager mission has detected a new type of “electron burst,” which will provide insights into the mechanisms of flaring stars, a new study reports. The bursts occur when cosmic ray electrons — fast-moving particles from far beyond the solar system — are pushed by shock waves generated by solar eruptions. The electrons then accelerate further along cosmic magnetic field lines to incredible speed, study team members said.
“The idea that shock waves accelerate particles is not new,” corresponding author Don Gurnett, professor emeritus in physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa, said in a statement. “[But] we detected it in a new realm: the interstellar medium, which is much different than in the solar wind, where similar processes have been observed….”
Eventually, the magnetic field lines propel the cosmic rays to almost the speed of light — nearly 670 times faster than the solar shock waves that first pushed them. (The shock waves move at roughly 1 million mph, or 1.6 million kph, study team members said.)
The article marvels at the fact that the spacecraft are still sending back data regularly from 14 billion miles away, beyond the edge of our solar system, more than 43 years after they left earth. They even detected the original solar shock wave which caused the electron burst “up to a year after the event occurred.
“The wait time happened because the spacecraft are so far from the sun.”
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