streaming plasma

Voyager: The Space Between

Our Voyager 1 spacecraft officially became the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space in 2012. 

Whether and when our Voyager 1 spacecraft broke through to interstellar space, the space between stars, has been a thorny issue. 

In 2012, claims surfaced every few months that Voyager 1 had “left our solar system.” Why had the Voyager team held off from saying the craft reached interstellar space until 2013?

Basically, the team needed more data on plasma, which is an ionozied gas that exists throughout space. (The glob of neon in a storefront sign is an example of plasma).

Plasma is the most important marker that distinguishes whether Voyager 1 is inside the solar bubble, known as the heliosphere.  The heliosphere is defined by the constant stream of plasma that flows outward from our Sun – until it meets the boundary of interstellar space, which contains plasma from other sources.

Adding to the challenge: they didn’t know how they’d be able to detect it.

No one has been to interstellar space before, so it’s  like traveling with guidebooks that are incomplete.

Additionally, Voyager 1’s plasma instrument, which measures the density, temperature and speed of plasma, stopped working in 1980, right after its last planetary flyby.

When Voyager 1 detected the pressure of interstellar space on our heliosphere in 2004, the science team didn’t have the instrument that would provide the most direct measurements of plasma. 

Voyager 1 Trajectory

Instead, they focused on the direction of the magnetic field as a proxy for source of the plasma. Since solar plasma carries the magnetic field lines emanating from the Sun and interstellar plasma carries interstellar magnetic field lines, the directions of the solar and interstellar magnetic fields were expected to differ.

Voyager 2 Trajectory

In May 2012, the number of galactic cosmic rays made its first significant jump, while some of the inside particles made their first significant dip. The pace of change quickened dramatically on July 28, 2012. After five days, the intensities returned to what they had been. This was the first taste test of a new region, and at the time Voyager scientists thought the spacecraft might have briefly touched the edge of interstellar space.

By Aug. 25, when, as we now know, Voyager 1 entered this new region for good, all the lower-energy particles from inside zipped away. Some inside particles dropped by more than a factor of 1,000 compared to 2004. However, subsequent analysis of the magnetic field data revealed that even though the magnetic field strength jumped by 60% at the boundary, the direction changed less than 2 degrees. This suggested that Voyager 1 had not left the solar magnetic field and had only entered a new region, still inside our solar bubble, that had been depleted of inside particles.

Then, in April 2013, scientists got another piece of the puzzle by chance. For the first eight years of exploring the heliosheath, which is the outer layer of the heliosphere, Voyager’s plasma wave instrument had heard nothing. But the plasma wave science team had observed bursts of radio waves in 1983 and 1984 and again in 1992 and 1993. They determined these bursts were produced by the interstellar plasma when a large outburst of solar material would plow into it and cause it to oscillate.

It took about 400 days for such solar outbursts to reach interstellar space, leading to an estimated distance of 117 to 177 AU (117 to 177 times the distance from the Sun to the Earth) to the heliopause.

Then on April 9, 2013, it happened: Voyager 1’s plasma wave instrument picked up local plasma oscillations. Scientists think they probably stemmed from a burst of solar activity from a year before. The oscillations increased in pitch through May 22 and indicated that Voyager was moving into an increasingly dense region of plasma.

The above soundtrack reproduces the amplitude and frequency of the plasma waves as “heard” by Voyager 1. The waves detected by the instrument antennas can be simply amplified and played through a speaker. These frequencies are within the range heard by human ears.

When they extrapolated back, they deduced that Voyager had first encountered this dense interstellar plasma in Aug. 2012, consistent with the sharp boundaries in the charged particle and magnetic field data on Aug. 25.

In the end, there was general agreement that Voyager 1 was indeed outside in interstellar space, but that location comes with some disclaimers. They determined the spacecraft is in a mixed transitional region of interstellar space. We don’t know when it will reach interstellar space free from the influence of our solar bubble.

Voyager 1, which is working with a finite power supply, has enough electrical power to keep operating the fields and particles science instruments through at least 2020, which will make 43 years of continual operation.

Voyager 1 will continue sending engineering data for a few more years after the last science instrument is turned off, but after that it will be sailing on as a silent ambassador. 

In about 40,000 years, it will be closer to the star AC +79 3888 than our own Sun.

And for the rest of time, Voyager 1 will continue orbiting around the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, with our Sun but a tiny point of light among many.

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Kylo Ren’s Lightsaber: Info. Graph + Transparency

Kylo Ren’s lightsaber has created many disagreements, since the design diverges from the conception of a traditional lightsaber. Consistent with many Dark Force users, Kylo Ren has chosen a red kyber crystal. Unlike his predecessors, Kylo Ren implemented a cracked kyber crystal into his lightsaber design. The cracked crystal presents some difficulties for the user. Since the crystal is damaged, it is difficult to manipulate and control the energy produced. To focus the crystal’s energy into a plasma stream, the crossgaurd – or the quillon vents – are needed. The quillons help to reduce excess energy created by the kyber crystal. However, the angular placement of the quillons may negate the functionality of the vents.

Each plasma stream creates its own force. Plasma is not static, instead it is in constant motion. The plasma stream of a lightsaber cycles through a loop. The plasma moves rapidly and continuously in and out of the kyber crystal located in the hilt. This means the crystal is pulled in each direction in which a plasma stream is present. In turn, this causes tremendous stress on the damaged crystal as well as difficulty wielding the lightsaber.  

The damaged crystal only partially accounts for the ragged and unstable appearance of the plasma blade. The electromagnetic field which surrounds and assists the creation of the plasma stream has been clearly weakened. Indicators of this manipulation are the varying width of the blade as well as the particles of plasma (flying sparks). There are a few reasons why Kylo Ren would want to weaken the electromagnetic field. First, it could reduce the stress on the cracked kyber crystal. Second, it might allow for the formation of the quillons.


Some speculations: As mentioned in the previous post, Kylo Ren’s crossguard lightsaber is based of an ancient design. I personally wonder if the design specifically calls for a cracked kyber crystal or if there another reason behind Kylo Ren’s crystal selection? What if Kylo Ren specifically uses this crystal for sentimental reasons. It is possible that this cracked crystal was originally implemented in the lightsaber of Darth Vader.

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Suffer Little Children

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Anakin let out a loud, delighted cry when the ship entered Sadu’s troposphere, and flew into a bank of storm clouds, pregnant with water and lightning. The boy pressed his face to the transparisteel, fascinated with the violent view. Three years away from Tatooine did not erase his almost religious adoration for rain.

(Obi-Wan was still unconvinced that Anakin did not venerate rain as an actual deity. Whenever he asked him about it, Anakin evaded the direct answer with a glee. Soon, a discussion about theoretical religions became a habit of theirs, an inside joke between two bored friends with too much imagination. Master Windu thought they were both insane when Anakin placed an altar for Azathoth, The Vengeful Tooka god of Wrath, in the Room of Thousand Fountains and convinced a few initiates to bring mashed fruit as an offering. The following morning the fruit was gone. Obi-Wan suspected it had fallen victim to Master Yoda’s sweet tooth.)

A sudden flash of blinding light filled their cabin, and the roaring thunder shook the ship as if it were a mere child toy. Anakin laughed. And even though Obi-Wan knew they were in no real danger, he watched his padawan with unease.

Keep reading

A stream of plasma burst out from the Sun, but since it lacked enough force to break away, most of it fell back into the Sun (May 27, 2014).

The GIF/movie combines two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light, and covers a little over two hours. Minor eruptions like this one occur almost daily, representing the dynamic activity driven by powerful magnetic forces near the Sun’s surface.

Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA

this game is so fucking weird with the wild pokemon having egg moves now like i’m on route 102 outside petalburg trying to catch a nice ralts for my team and i found a level 3 dude in the grass and i’m like ok cool my level 9 dog will probably kill you so let me just switch in my zigzagoon, it could use some experience anyway, maybe tackle a few times and throw a ball at about half health, that sounds nice and comfy, i look away from my ds for one second to check the moves for ralts and when i look back that fucker’s got his hands up in the air like the goddamn messiah of destruction and there’s blobby purple plasma streaming down my screen as he calls down the primordial death energies of the universe itself, everything is swathed in the roiling darkness of the abyss, my level 2 zigzagoon’s stats are harshly falling left and right and the ralts just fucking faints i guess from the exertion of summoning the goddamn rain of perdition

this wild level 3 ralts knows memento

An aurora, as seen from the International Space Station, glows in green and red waves over the polar regions of Earth. These lights are the result of interactions between the solar wind–a stream of hot, rarefied plasma from the sun–and our planet’s magnetic field. A bow shock forms where they meet, about 12,000-15,000 km from Earth. The planet’s magnetic field deflects much of the solar wind, but some plasma gets drawn in along field lines near the poles. When these energetic particles interact with nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere, it can excite the atoms and generate photon emissions, creating the distinctive glow. Similar auroras have been observed on several other planets and moons in our solar system. (Photo credit: NASA)

Me to my physicist/engineer brother via text

Me; So where the fuck are our lightsabers what are you guys even doing

Him; Look we’re fucking working on it ok it’s not exactly easy to cap off a plasma stream

I like the idea that if you could suddenly read a dog’s thoughts, the thoughts would all be weird complete sentences like:

“Overhead the sky is busy, streaming, a living plasma.”