According to a recently published paper in Nature Astronomy, NASA scientists have "developed a new prediction of the shape of the bubble surrounding our solar system using a model developed with data from NASA missions."
We already knew that solar winds from our sun created a sort of magnetic bubble around the planets in our solar system, separating them from the interstellar medium — the rest of the space in Outer Space. Scientists have tried to understand the shape of this solar wind bubble, to better understand its relationship to the Sun's orbit and its position within the greater galaxy. In the past, they've usually understood this directional force to be somewhat comet-like, with a rounded leading edge or "nose" that casts solar wind trails in its wake.
But thanks to new advancements, they now think the solar system is a — and I quote — "deflated croissant." From NASA (emphasis added):
NASA's New Horizons mission has provided measurements of pick-up ions, particles that are ionized out in space and are picked up and move along with the solar wind. Because of their distinct origins from the solar wind particles streaming out from the Sun, pick-up ions are much hotter than other solar wind particles — and it's this fact that Opher's work hinges on.
"There are two fluids mixed together. You have one component that is very cold and one component that is much hotter, the pick-up ions," said Opher, a professor of astronomy at Boston University. "If you have some cold fluid and hot fluid, and you put them in space, they won't mix — they will evolve mostly separately. What we did was separate these two components of the solar wind and model the resulting 3D shape of the heliosphere."
Considering the solar wind's components separately, combined with Opher's earlier work using the solar magnetic field as a dominant force in shaping the heliosphere, created a deflated croissant shape, with two jets curling away from the central bulbous part of the heliosphere, and notably lacking the long tail predicted by many scientists.
Okay, sure. We all live in a deflated croissant. Better, or worse, than living in a Yellow Submarine? That's up to you.
Image: Opher, et al via NASA