Magnetic and Charged Particle Changes in New Solar System Region
This graphic, made from data obtained by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, tracks the behavior of the sun's magnetic field and a population of charged particles as the spacecraft moved in and out of a new region scientists are calling the "magnetic freeway." The new region lapped and receded from Voyager 1 like an ocean wave several times between July and August. The solid vertical lines indicate when Voyager 1 moved into this new region. The dashed lines indicate where the region receded away from Voyager 1.
The top graphic (magenta) shows the intensity of the magnetic field in nanoteslas. The intensity jumped each time Voyager 1 entered the new region. These data come from Voyager's magnetometer. The bottom graphic (blue) shows the prevalence of lower-energy charged particles that originate from inside our heliosphere, which is the bubble of charged particles around our sun. These data come from the cosmic ray instrument. Each time Voyager 1 entered the new region, the population of these inside particles dropped. After Aug. 25, the magnetic field intensity has held steady at the same elevated level and the population of inside particles hit an all-time low and has not changed.
Scientists refer to this new region as a "magnetic highway" because here the sun's magnetic field lines are connected to the interstellar magnetic field lines. This connection allows particles from inside the heliosphere to zip away. It also allows particles from interstellar space to zoom in.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/University of Delaware