The Shape of Our Solar System
Posted on May 11, 2007
Our solar system isn’t the good old circle or oval you might have thought it is. According to research reported on this week by National Geographic News, it is bullet-shaped.
The system travels within a bubble of solar wind—made of charged particles from the sun—called the heliosphere.
The edge of this bubble collides with the Milky Way galaxy’s magnetic field at a distance some 200 times farther from the sun than Earth is.
A research team led by Merav Opher at Virginia’s George Mason University found that, just outside the solar system, this interstellar magnetic field is inclined at a 60-degree angle relative to the plane of the Milky Way.
The solar system takes on its streamlined shape as it strikes the magnetic field at this angle, Opher explained.