A team of scientists from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has released a revised model of the space environment prevailing throughout the solar system in the months leading up to New Horizons historic pass of the dwarf planet Pluto.
Contrary to popular opinion, space is far from empty. The environment between the planets that make up our solar system is in fact permeated by the embedded magnetic fields carried along by the steady flow of particles emanating from our Sun, known as the solar wind, and dramatic outbursts in the form of coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
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By better understanding this complex, and often dangerous environment, we can hopefully learn how to better protect future spacecraft and human beings from the risks posed by space travel.
The basis for the new simulation is taken from the Enlil model, which, named after the Sumerian god of wind, is one of the numerous weather models being put to the test as part of NASA's New Horizons Flyby Modelling Challenge.
The visualization displays three key variables. Gradients of red represent temperature variation, green depicts the density of the solar wind, while blue represents the pressure gradient. Other colors are also evident in the model, resulting from interactions between the three primary variables. The explanation for these color variations can be found in the tricolour diagram above.
The video below shows the mesmerizing Enlil model of space weather between January to July 2015.