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Our Solar System Is Traveling Into Uncharted Interstellar Space

An illustration of uncharted interstellar space. YAYIMAGES.

Our Solar System is traveling into uncharted interstellar space as it continues to move towards the mysterious G Cloud Complex. The G-Cloud contains the stars Alpha and Proxima Centauri.

Everything in the universe is in motion, with the universe itself expanding each day. The planets (and all other cosmic objects gravitationally bound to the Sun) roughly orbit our star in the same plane. There are some exceptions, but these objects still orbit the Sun. Our solar system travels through the Milky Way galaxy with an approximately 60-degree angle between the galactic and the planetary orbital plane.

As it goes through the galaxy, the Sun appears to move inside and out, upwards and downwards, in respect of the Milky Way. As you read this, the planet is rotating on its axis, hurtling through space at approximately 1,700 kilometers per hour. And although this may sound like a fast speed, on cosmic scales, this is not the case. Instead, the Sun drags its cosmic family along as it travels around the galactic center, taking between 200 and 250 million years to complete one full revolution.

Moving into the unknown

Now that we know everything is in motion and that our shiny Sun is carrying us through interstellar space as it makes its way through our galaxy, we will eventually enter into unknown space. And according to a recent article by New Scientist, we are heading into the unknown as we speak. So while most consider space an endless, unchanging void, this is not the case.

Astronomer Rosine Lallement of the Paris University of Sciences says the opposite is true. On a larger scale, the vacuum of space has innumerable distinct regions, each with its independent qualities. For example, astronomers discovered in 1992 that the entire solar system was wrapped within a large cloud of dust and gas—about ten light-years across. Scientists have called it the Local Interstellar Cloud. But here is the exciting part; research has shown that we are moving out of that massive cosmic bubble and into another called the G-Cloud or G-Cloud Complex. The G-Cloud Complex is home to the stars Alfa and Proxima Centauri.

A new interstellar “world

Imagine moving from one country to another. Once you reach your new destination, an entirely different “world” awaits, one with unique features. We could technically say the same thing about our solar system moving into the G-Cloud. However, as explained by scientists, moving into a new interstellar cloud has a few “larger than life” consequences. The researchers have revealed that an area of space with a significantly different composition could put more pressure on the heliosphere — the almost unimaginably huge bubble of charged particles from the Sun that shields planets from cosmic ionizing radiation.

According to scientists, radiation levels are approximately ten times higher outside our protective cosmic bubble — the heliosphere. The good news is that the G-Cloud complex seems to have roughly the same density as our current area of space. But astronomers aren’t really sure what exists between the two bubbles. Are these zones dramatically higher or lower? There is much we still do not know.

A mystery for the future

We have made significant progress exploring outer space, but many mysteries remain. Even the edges of the heliopause — where the solar wind meets the interstellar medium — are a great scientific mystery. Both Voyager probes, launched in 1977, have now crossed this barrier, but data from them suggest that, for unknown reasons, Voyager 2 had a smoother passage through the mysterious barrier. Is this normal? Or was it some sort of glitch in the bubble?

The solar system, and the Earth within it, have been traversing the Local Interstellar Cloud for the past 60,000 years. While we won’t be entering the G-Cloud complex for another 2,000 years, that’s a trivial amount of time in cosmic terms. By the time it does happen, we can only hope that our understanding of the galaxy and the universe has increased drastically. Hopefully, by this time, astronomers in 4023 will better understand what’s in store for us.

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