Wind from Ophiuchus

Most people are familiar with the 12 signs of the zodiac as used by astrologers, but most will not have heard of the thirteenth astronomical constellations of the ecliptic (there are even more in the astronomical zodiac) that appears on modern star maps. It is named Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, and sits between Scorpius and Sagittarius on the sky. The Sun passes through it in early December each year.

As it happens, there is an interstellar breeze of helium coming from the direction of Ophiuchus, which is focussed into a cone by the Sun. When the Sun is in the direction of Ophiuchus, the Earth passes through the cone allowing astrophysicists to study it. You shouldn't worry too much about its affect on the Earth though as, according to George Gloeckler, the breeze is a thousand billion billion times (1021 times) less dense than Earth's atmosphere. The Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft, located at L1, has been studying the helium wind and the project scientists have detected gusts in the wind. However, as they point out, these are most likely due to the solar wind buffeting the helium rather than structure in the interstellar wind itself.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 30th Dec 2004 (11:57 UTC) | Permalink
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