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Turns out we ARE hosting an intergalactic kegger down here
June 13, 2011 12:35 PM   Subscribe

The twin Voyager probes launched by NASA in 1977 have discovered something new in the heliosheath at the edge of the solar system: it's frothy out there. Video. Press Release. Via. Voyager: Previously.
posted by zarq (33 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, the center of the galaxy apparently smells and tastes like one mixed drink, maybe this is just another one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:38 PM on June 13, 2011


Astrosantorum!
posted by chasing at 12:38 PM on June 13, 2011 [25 favorites]


The voiceover for that video sounded like the tone of voice that might be used for a children's video. Kind of like the audio equivalent of comic sans, and not really appropriate for this sort of awesome space discovery.
posted by explosion at 12:40 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"According to computer models, the bubbles are large, about 100 million miles wide, so it would take the speedy probes weeks to cross just one of them."
1) Holy shit that's some big froth.
2) Holy shit that's a fast probe.
posted by Plutor at 12:41 PM on June 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


The title alone deserves a favorite.
posted by Trurl at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The thing's hollow—it goes on forever—and—oh my God—it's full of stars bubbles!"
--From 2001: A Space Odyssey, as re-imagined by Lawrence Welk
posted by not_on_display at 12:52 PM on June 13, 2011


Joking aside, this information should help astrophysicists develop more complete theories on how the solar system moves as a whole in the larger galactic space. Keep on rocking the free universe, Voyager!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:57 PM on June 13, 2011


Dear 1970's space probes, I'm sorry we sent you out alone, and will never send anyone out to visit you. Enjoy the cold, silent darkenss. Sincerely, Earth.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:57 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


No words...they should have sent a Juggalo.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:00 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Four-dimensional solar system looks like a sperm.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:10 PM on June 13, 2011


The brain waves of a woman in love!!!! Sagan thought up some odd stuff, but really? No holy relics?
posted by stonepharisee at 1:10 PM on June 13, 2011


The voiceover for that video sounded like the tone of voice that might be used for a children's video.

Ugh. I agree. This is really cool news, but I had to clench my teeth through that entire video. WHY is she talking like that? I'd be offended if someone talked to a five-year-old that way. Don't condescend, NASA!
posted by grumblebee at 1:10 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hell yeah. Go Voyager probes! I continue to be impressed that we're getting actual new information out of these things so long after they were launched.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:12 PM on June 13, 2011


No words...they should have sent a Juggalo.

And then sent the rest?

I'm going to sit tight and hope one of our resident physics or solar astronomy experts hops in. This is cool, but I don't really know what to make of it. *crosses fingers*
posted by mrgoat at 1:12 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Additional Coverage:

Here's a different video from the one linked in the fpp, from NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center.

National Geographic: "Frothy Magnetic-Bubble Sea Found at Solar System's Edge." "Foam zone" could be letting in harmful cosmic rays, NASA says.

PopSci: "Approaching Solar System's Edge, Voyager Probes Detect A Foamy Sea of Magnetic Bubbles." A frothy moat, not a shield, protects us from cosmic rays

PhysOrg: "A big surprise from the edge of the solar system: magnetic bubbles (includes videos)"
posted by zarq at 1:20 PM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks, Trurl. :)
posted by zarq at 1:20 PM on June 13, 2011


Now that's value for your money! The Voyager probes are still making discoveries, even though they were launched before many of the people on Mefi were even born. Those 1960's-70's tax dollars were very well spent.

The articles zarq links to in his second-last comment seem to imply that the Solar System is less well protected from cosmic rays than expected - but doesn't this discovery mean there's more protection overall? If the Sun's magnetic field bent back in clean arcs at the heliopause like the scientists originally thought, then there'd be nothing to stop cosmic rays from coming in. But in this new model radiation gets trapped inside magnetic bubbles where it circles for who knows how long, before finally zooming out in random vectors. And only some of those vectors would point at the Sun and planets, so we'd get less radiation over time.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:49 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Smarter-people-than-me: Does this have SETI implications? Do these kind of unexpected magnetic structures attenuate potential communication from ETIs? Or are we talking about two ships passing in the night?
posted by SkinnerSan at 1:51 PM on June 13, 2011


> Smarter-people-than-me: Does this have SETI implications? Do these kind of unexpected magnetic structures attenuate potential communication from ETIs? Or are we talking about two ships passing in the night?

Krikkit, anyone?

That was their problem. Shielded, and then they saw through the impenetrable veil, and went apeshit.
posted by stonepharisee at 1:59 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


How the hell are the Voyager probes still operational? That's some incredible engineering.
posted by swift at 2:11 PM on June 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Damn! There are Starbucks everywhere.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:16 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am constantly mindblown that a probe sent into space and out in space since 1977 is functioning at all, much less well enough to be of any use whatsoever.

I've already gone through six cell phones, four iphones, three laptops, countless dvd players, a flat screen teevee, and roughly a hundred flash drives and external hard drives since 2007.

Anyone who needs convincing that built-in obsolescence is anything less than standard business MO needs look no further than a distant corner of our solar system.
posted by humannaire at 2:56 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear 1970's space probes, I'm sorry we sent you out alone, and will never send anyone out to visit you. Enjoy the cold, silent darkenss. Sincerely, Earth.

Dear Earth:

You launched us during the decade of disco, wide lapels, TV variety shows, "Harvest Gold" appliances, and Shields and Yarnell. Frankly, good riddance.

Sincerely,
Voyagers I and II
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:09 PM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


humannaire: I've already gone through six cell phones, four iphones, three laptops, countless dvd players, a flat screen teevee, and roughly a hundred flash drives and external hard drives since 2007.

Yeah, but none of them cost $millions like those probes did.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:10 PM on June 13, 2011


I've already gone through six cell phones, four iphones, three laptops, countless dvd players, a flat screen teevee, and roughly a hundred flash drives and external hard drives since 2007.

I doubt very much you've "gone through them" in the sense that you've completely worn them out to the point of no longer being functional. Upgrading is different. Besides, no one has touched the probes, let alone dropped em in a urinal by accident or sat on em wrong or the various other ways we hasten the demise of our personal electronics... Still amazing science/engineering though.
posted by stenseng at 3:26 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear Lipstick Thespian:

That whole magnetic bubble thing? My ass sent that by accident. My bad.

Voyager 1 and 2
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:48 PM on June 13, 2011


You launched us during the decade of disco, wide lapels, TV variety shows, "Harvest Gold" appliances, and Shields and Yarnell. Frankly, good riddance.

Hell, we did them a favor. Turned on your TV lately?
posted by scrowdid at 5:34 PM on June 13, 2011



How the hell are the Voyager probes still operational? That's some incredible engineering.

Yeah, and to further blow your mind, most of the engineering was probably done using slide rules with 2 or 3 significant digits.
posted by mikelieman at 5:37 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


As with a correctly poured beer, every solar system must have a head on it.
posted by bwg at 5:42 PM on June 13, 2011


How the hell are the Voyager probes still operational? That's some incredible engineering.

Nuclear energy, reactor rated to last until 2025 so expect another decade plus of more info. Sadly, the bogeyman got us and with the event in Japan will continue to scare us from what can only be called the cleanest (per mass) energy source we ever discovered and got scared into thinking it was everything it was not. No, I'm not bitter. I just wanted my flying car.

Seriously, where's my micropile supplied electric car?!
posted by linux at 8:22 PM on June 13, 2011


Wow so glad they spent the cost of 300 or so + Voyagers on the floating PR stunt that is the ISS. And who needed Apollo, Skylab and all the Apollo Applications like a moon base, the Venus flyby, etc when you can have the not very useful, low orbit flying Ming vase that is the Shuttle. :-(
posted by The Salaryman at 2:15 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh and Linux is right. The radiophobia around nuclear fission has held humanity back big time. In all kinds of ways. And we will pay a huge price. When we're all fighting over a few arid islands in a giant sea Joan Baez influnenced thinking about energy infrastructure will all seem rather capricious.
posted by The Salaryman at 2:23 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was at a tweetup at JPL last week, and the woman who spoke to us about the Voyager probes said they each had 3 computers on board with a total of 64 bytes of RAM. She also said they were designed to only reach Jupiter and Saturn. Neptune and Uranus were just bonuses due to the unusual lineup of the 4 planets and the unplanned longevity (and unexpected funding to continue listening for) the probes.

That over 30 years later, we are still getting useful data from them sends chills up my spine. I was in elementary school when they launched, and remember being disappointed by how long it'd take them to get to Jupiter. I never thought I'd be reading news about their discoveries when I was a creaking middle aged woman.
posted by QIbHom at 12:01 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


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