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March 3, 2012
A team of NASA scientists reported yesterday that after investigating for two years the space with the IBEX spacecraft launched in 2008, have been recording alien atoms in their samples.
"We have directly measured four different types of atoms from interstellar space and the composition simply does not match the one we see in the solar system," said Eric Christian, IBEX mission scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt , Maryland.
Without going to leave the solar system, the IBEX spacecraft can collect samples from outside the galaxy, scientists stress.
Detected are hydrogen atoms (H), helium (He), oxygen (O) and neon (Ne). They decided to use as a reference to neon, which is a noble gas, so it does not react with anything. It is also relatively abundant throughout the space, "so that we can measure with good statistics," says McComas.
After recording the data was compared to that reported by IBEX and the ratio (Ne) vs. (O) inside the heliosphere with its exterior.
For every 20 atoms (Ne) in the galactic wind were about 74 atoms (O), while in our solar system, it is normal that there is a relationship of 20 (Ne) vs. 111 (O).
The question that scientists are now is where did the extra oxygen in the solar system?
"There are at least two possibilities," says McComas. "Either the solar system evolved in a separate part of the galaxy, richer in oxygen than the place where we live now, or a critical amount of oxygen that gives life is trapped in dust grains or interstellar ice, which are unable to move freely through the space and, therefore, can not be detected by IBEX spacecraft. "
According to him, "is a real puzzle," as it changes existing models to be had.
IBEX is a ship that was launched in 2008, and rotates in Earth orbit to explore the whole sky. Its mission is to detect neutral atoms that slip through the heliosphere's magnetic defenses.
The spacecraft is taking samples of alien atoms of Earth's orbit, while the Voyager spacecraft, NASA, travel to the edge of the heliosphere for nearly 40 years and may soon find themselves on the outside looking in..
The researchers hope that the Voyager 1 spacecraft leaves the solar system in the coming years. The new data provided by IBEX suggest that the Voyager spacecraft, in fact, directed toward a new frontier.