back to article The results are in: Science says the Solar System's magnetic heliosphere looks like a deflated croissant

Not only does the good ol’ Sun provide us with light and warmth, its solar wind casts around the planetary system a protective magnetic bubble that’s probably shaped like a... deflated croissant. You’d probably get away with describing it looking like a slightly misshapen spleen or a stomach if you're not into baked goods …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Excellent work

    Observations drive models and these are SoA.

    Congratulations to the whole team.

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Aren't we lucky!

    Heliosphere, magnetic field and atmosphere, all protecting against harmful cosmic rays. This coincidence should probably be taken into account when looking for life-supporting exoplanets.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Aren't we lucky!

      For a planet to be inside a heliosphere it needs to be near (or preferably in orbit around) a star. So orphan planets are out of luck, but ALL of the exoplanets that we've found so far qualify.

      Planets without a (or with a weak) magnetic field will slowly have their atmosphere stripped by the solar wind. So planets without a significant magnetic field either end up with little to no atmosphere (e.g. Mars) or have a deep, thick, boiling, crushing atmosphere (e.g. Venus) that will take billions of years to strip away.

      So if you look for an atmosphere that's thick enough, but not too thick, and is gonna be around long enough for life to evolve then the heliosphere and magnetic field can pretty much be assumed.

      I am of course discounting extremophiles, the likes of which we might just find living on Mars or in the clouds of Venus. But that's because we've not been able to find them on Mars or Venus, which are both in our own backyard. If there are extremophiles living on an exoplanet we have zero chance of finding them from here with our present (or near future) technology.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aren't we lucky!

      Could it be the moon causing the odd shape?

      1. 0laf

        Re: Aren't we lucky!

        No dude, that yellow blob is the size of the solar system. The weird lump at the back is probably Neptune or Uranus if anything.

        1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

          Re: Aren't we lucky!

          So am I right to assume ..... That's no moon!

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Aren't we lucky!

            That's no Moon. That's my wife!

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Aren't we lucky!

            No, it's Uranus!

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Whatever it is, it doesn't look well...

    Are we to assume that the sun is in the centre of the image, where the outline is vaguely spherical?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Magnetic as motion

    I assume you have already observed reverse time effects with magnetism?

    You should be able to initiate a magnetic field whose effects appears to propagate backwards in time. In a similar way to anti-particles appear to be in motion going backwards in time.

    Of course they're not, its a net oscillation you're observing not the particle. But if magnetic is another oscillatory motion with a phase and counter phase relative to universe resonance (actually relative to the local detector), then it can be ahead or behind the resonance oscillation and the net effect will appear to move forward or backward in time.

    i.e. I'm pushing you towards the "magnetism as motion" conclusion. So you understand that heat is motion and that the magnetic field is a component of the heat motion. That chaotic heat motion is complex not chaotic.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Magnetic as motion

      You are MfM and I claim my £5!

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Magnetic as motion

      I don't think we have the technology to observe things that are moving backward in time.

      That would mean we would have to record the result before taking the measurement.

      This is real life, not science-fiction fantasy.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

        Re: Magnetic as motion

        +1 See my reply posted yesterday

        1. 0laf

          Re: Magnetic as motion

          Beware the Shrike

      2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Magnetic as motion

        Ah, but if we are travelling back in time, it should be a Madeleine made with honey, delivered to me in my cork-lined bedroom with breakfast coffee.*

        *(Proust, In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1, the Way by Swann's)

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    The thing with croissants

    Is, are they made with butter or margarine?

    If the latter, it's not a croissant, ask any Frenchman.

    I am guessing, since the observations so far have not been the result of a dedicated craft/study that the shape derived from the computer simulation is likely to change as more and better data becomes available.

    Or is the irregular shape due to the current configuration of the planets?

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Or is the irregular shape due to the current configuration of the planets?

      It might be due to the butter melting.

      1. Kane Silver badge

        Re: Or is the irregular shape due to the current configuration of the planets?

        "It might be due to the butter melting."

        Specifically, lamination

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: The thing with croissants

      Croissants are just chefy versions of butteries from their auld alliance pal Scotland. If we had butteries protecting us instead we would be safe from pretty much anything so long as the hot ions didnt melt them - then we'd have to eat it all in one sitting.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: If the latter, it's not a croissant, ask any Frenchman.

      Je suis entièrement d'accord avec vous.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If the latter, it's not a croissant, ask any Frenchman.

        Je dirais même que la margarine n'a pas de place dans une cuisine française

        1. General Purpose Silver badge

          Re: If the latter, it's not a croissant, ask any Frenchman.

          You say that now but where were you when Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès invented it at la Ferme Impériale de la Faisanderie, Napoleon III's private farm in Vincennes near Paris?

          1. MiguelC Silver badge

            Re: If the latter, it's not a croissant, ask any Frenchman.

            From wikipedia "Mège-Mouriès made very little profit from the invention of oleomargarine, which never became popular in France", et pour cause.

    4. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: The thing with croissants

      "Or is the irregular shape due to the current configuration of the planets?"

      The exact reasons for the shape are likely to be one of the big areas of continuing study. However, it's unlikely the planets have much influence on it at all. Planets are seriously tiny compared to the scale we're looking at. Note the article says the nearest edge is around 10 billion miles away - Pluto never gets more than about 4 billion miles from the Sun. The structure here will be almost entirely due to the interaction of the solar wind with the interstellar medium, which is in turn due partly to the Sun's activity, partly due to the solar system's motion through the medium, and partly due to whatever stuff might be going on within the medium due to external effects (matter flow from other stars, shocks from supernovae, and so on).

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: The thing with croissants

        You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's but that's just peanuts to space.

  6. Graham Cunningham

    Looks like DNA was right all along...

    Hope I don't live to see the Great White Hanky!

  7. John Jennings

    Its a


    or perhaps an alien fetus, enveloping our sun, growing by absorbing the cosmic and solar winds before joining the galactic herds.....

    the Sun is just a trans-dimensional umbilical

    we are a nasty case of athletes foot

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Its job is to mostly shield our system from galactic cosmic rays"

    Um, I think the Sun's job is fuse hydrogen and stave off gravitational collapse for as long as possible. The fact that that generates a ginormous magnetic field around a heliosphere is just a side-effect that happens to be beneficial to us.

    That being said, I have now learned that the heliosphere has a magnetic shell around it. So we have the heliospheric magnetic shell protecting us, plus our own Earth-bound magnetosphere, and yet we still are capable of measuring cosmic rays.

    Does that mean that there are "weak" cosmic rays that are stopped or deflected by the heliomagnetosphere ?

  9. lglethal Silver badge

    A Depressed Pastry?

    It just needs a sympathetic ear to listen to it. i mean we sent the Voyagers, but they just didnt have time to stop...

    1. Jim Mitchell

      If they had paused at the heliopause, the heliosphere wouldn't be depressed?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "If they had paused at the heliopause, the heliosphere wouldn't be depressed?"

        Hah! Brain larger than the solar system and all they do is poke fun at the shape of it. You wonder why it's depressed?

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I don't think the Voyager probes not being able to stop is the problem. After all, there's loads of room out there, and they're not going all that fast (in the grand scheme of things). So they could just shout.

      The problem is that we vastly under-equipped them. With only RTGs that produce a few hundred Watts, they simply don't have the power to boil a kettle and make everybody a nice cup of tea.

      I'm sure that Star Trek the Motion Picture would have gone utterly differently if the Federation had simply made VGer a nice cuppa.

      Although none of that Earl Grey filth that Picard drinks. Proper builders only.

      Disclaimer: I rather like Earl Grey. But it's for when you're reading a nice book, after dinner, on a quiet evening. When you need a cup of tea, that's a different blend. Sainsbury's Red Label for me (loose tea made in a pot), others differ.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        A nice cuppa

        My friends* got me some rather nice 'afternoon' tea (loose leaf) from a trip to Arundel castle recently. There are blends other than Earl Grey and Sainsbury's Red Label.

        *(Yes, even I have friends, I don't have to spend *all* my time on this site to engage in social intercourse.)

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: a trip to Arundel castle

          Ah, an eyesight test* AND some tea FTW!

          * other castle eyesight tests are available

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: A nice cuppa

          Eclectic Man,

          I've been on a bit of a tea binge in the last couple of years. Trying all sorts of stuff. I've decided I like Lady Grey more than Early Grey, the perfect cuppa for an afternoon tea is Darjeeling and you can get some very interesting black teas (mostly breakfast tea blends) with bits of dried fruit in, that make a really refreshing cuppa for a change. Sainsbury's and Twinings do some wonderful fruit teas, so long as you leave the bag in for 15 minutes and drink them just before they start going cold. Perfect to make (or have the teasmade make) then shave and jump in the shower and have something nice to drink as you dry off and dress.

          Smoked tea is interesting, but not for me. Green is nice with Chinese food, but jasmine is better. And the guys at work bought me a glass pot and some vacuum packed jasmine flowering tea - that also looks quite fun as it unfolds, and tastes lovely.

          But after all this experiment, and now having about 15 different teas on the shelf above the teapot, the one I turn to when I get home from work, or need a bit of a sit down, is still Sainsbury's Red Label. It's not much different to any other breakfast tea blend, but it's what I grew up with and it's still really nice now I take my tea black no sugar.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: A nice cuppa

            Not Spartacus,

            "Perfect to make (or have the teasmade make) then shave and jump in the shower and have something nice to drink as you dry off and dress."

            Interesting, I make tea before I shower, and shave immediately after my shower. I am using the same 'disposable' Bic razor for over a month now.

            I have my breakfast tea (black, no sugar) with a handful of mixed nuts, although were I to venture out, I might go for a coffee and a croissant at a local cafe (assuming any are still open).

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: A nice cuppa

            "but it's what I grew up with"

            Smell and taste are fantastic memory triggers. They can bring back memories from way back in the past, and happy childhood memories are often the best for many people.

            Anyone remember that horrible smelling brown liquid soap from school? :-)

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: A nice cuppa

              The only soap I remember from childhood was in bars. Only dead posh places had liquid soap dispensers. The bars often seemed grubbier than my hands, that I was washing. Rich buggers had brown Imperial Leather bars, we had Sainsbury's own brand.

              I remember Izal medicated toilet "paper" at school though.

              1. Tom 7 Silver badge

                Re: A nice cuppa

                When I worked at Martlesham for BT all the bogs had Izal in apart from the ones in the Admin block for HR to polish their arses, There were a couple of thousand people working there and once I popped in to their loos from the bloody magnificent library they had there I spread my cheeks and then the word around and rather than downgrade to stop the queues that formed they upgraded the loo roll for the rest of us.

                One of my more successful sit-ins.

          3. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: A nice cuppa

            Smoked tea you can keep too - lapsang souchong is like liquid kipper crap.

  10. herman Silver badge


    'hot pick-up ions' - So Sol Invictus is now a pick-up artist?

  11. werdsmith Silver badge

    The data from Cassini is handled by Goddard and if you want to play with it:

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