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article imageOp-Ed: Great science incoming as Voyagers find ‘Wall of Fire’

By Paul Wallis     Nov 11, 2019 in Science
Cape Canaveral - The Voyager probes have left the best to last. They have just delivered the most important information ever regarding the realities of interstellar space. This is Big Science which will be critical for millennia to come.
The Wall of Fire outside the Solar System is caused by electromagnetic (EM) radiation which is created by plasma and a local space environment full of raging magnetic fields. Temperatures of plasma are very high indeed. This wasn’t expected, and it’s a true vindication of the Voyagers that they’ve found some truly spectacular science.
The Voyagers are outside the normal Solar System environs. They’re technically not even beyond the Oort Cloud, where interstellar EM space really begins, but they’ve already encountered a very different environment. This may or may not mean the Oort Cloud is not an effective barrier to radiation, but it sure ain’t Kansas space as we know it. The almost total differences in space environments are drastic, even on a local level.
I’m not going to rehash the embedded video by Anton Petrov, who routinely does a great job of explaining the most complex astrophysics. It’s a must-see, and it will completely rewrite your view of the interstellar environment around the Solar System.
The critical information is this:
• Radiation in the Heliosphere (The Sun’s magnetic field of influence) is far lower than in external space.
• Temperatures and radiation levels rise steeply, incredibly so, outside the Heliosphere.
• The presence of hot plasma (charged particles) outside the Heliosphere is created by these very high levels of EM radiation, which remove electrons and create hot particles in large amounts. This is the “Wall of Fire”.
What the Wall of Fire means for the future
This sudden transition to a highly active environment will have a direct impact on any interstellar exploration. It’s a future obstacle course. It presents real issues for any sort of realistic exploration projects.
A few questions now raised by the Voyagers’ data:
• How would these very high levels of radiation affect onboard equipment, let alone people, for example?
• What types of radiation are the most dangerous?
• What shielding is required?
• How do future space missions handle the plasma, heat, etc.?
• What can be done to protect people in this environment?
• What instrumentation is required to identify radiation and other properties?
…It’s a much longer list, but you get the idea. These ARE the future problems, and this is the very first view of them. In context with the exploration and development of space, they’re the new story.
Next move in space - EM shields beat EM radiation
The Heliosphere is a giant magnetic field. It shields Earth from the stormy interstellar environments created by external sources. So, it’s a pretty good bet that this information is simply showing us that to beat EM fields and radiation, you need a good, mobile magnetic field.
“Duh”, you say? You’re right. It’s obvious. It couldn’t be more obvious. It has, in fact, always been obvious. Yet space exploration media has droned on interminably and inexplicably for decades about “hazards of radiation” as some sort of future insurmountable obstacle, however imaginary.
Now, we have the information required to demand proper development of EM shields to combat these murderous levels of EM radiation. Get out the buckets and spades, guys, because this is your next job. End this problem. Bury it, and make sure no pedantic SOBs get in the way of solving it.
This is where humanity is going. This is what’s needed to be done. Survival has rarely been achieved by sitting on a smug butt failing to deal with basic problems. The Voyagers have just provided the information which will take humanity to the stars. Respect that information, and get on with it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Voyager program, Voyagers enter interstellar space, EM radiation in space, TransSolar EM radiation, interstellar plasma
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