I have always liked the idea of symmetry; makes for a pleasing appearance and is well ordered. Apparently this is not true for our solar system, which appears to have the middle aged ‘dunlap’ disease. Our solar system’s gut has done lapped over its belt.

This information is coming in to researchers courtesy of the 1977 vintage Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is now reaching a distance of 9.9 billion miles from Earth and is entering the Sun’s heliosheath; a region of space where the solar system’s reach ends and the area of interstellar space begins. Other bodies in the galaxy begin to exert more influence on objects in this region than does our sun.

The thin layer of interstellar gas pushes back the solar wind and its magnetic effects that emanate from the Sun, creating a magnetic bubble, a gut if you will, and the Voyager data seems to be saying that this “gut” is not round. The solar system may in fact be rather oblong, similar to the effect of pushing a round balloon against a wall where it would be blunted on one side.

Both Voyager 1 & 2 are powered by long-lived nuclear fueled batteries, enabling them to continue to operate in the absence of solar energy for these past thirty years. It is estimated they will have sufficient power to operate their radio transmitters until after 2025, 48 years after launch, at which time it will be a matter of pure luck if they still work.


Voyager 1 is in the heliosheath.

From left to right in the image above: interstellar gas, the bow shock, the heliopause, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, the heliosheath, the termination shock and the heliosphere.