The prospect of the solar system moving from one cloud of dust and gas that has surrounded us for about 60,000 years to another cloud remains unclear, but there is a risk of increased levels of cosmic radiation.
According to a leading astronomer, the solar system is about to move into a new region of space, reports the Daily Star.
While most of us think of the cosmos as an infinite, unchanging vacuum, astronomer Rosine Lallemand of the Paris University of Science and Letters (France) says that is not the case at all.
On a larger scale, the vacuum of space has countless distinct regions, each with its own character.
Professor Lallement discovered in 1992 that the entire solar system is contained within a huge Local Interstellar Cloud of dust and gas, about 10 light-years across.
Further research has shown that we are on our way from this massive cosmic bubble to another one called the G-cloud. How the transition of the solar system to a new region of space will affect us is unknown.
A region of space with a different composition can put more pressure on the heliosphere, which protects the planets from cosmic ionizing radiation.
It should be understood that radiation levels are 10 times higher outside the Heliosphere.
The higher density zone could put more pressure on the heliosphere, letting more harmful cosmic rays through to the inner solar system.
Although the G-cloud is probably about the same density as the region of space that we currently inhabit, astronomers are not yet clear on what is happening at the boundaries between these bubbles. It is unknown whether there are zones of higher or lower density at the point of bubble separation.
Both Voyager space probes, launched in 1977, have already crossed this barrier, but data from them suggests that, for unknown reasons, Voyager 2 passed more easily through the mysterious barrier.
The solar system, along with the Earth, has been passing through the local interstellar cloud for the past 60,000 years.
Astronomers believe that it will take about 2000 years before entering the G-cloud, which is not so long on a cosmic scale.
Zorg: “By the time that happens, I can only hope that the astronomers of 4023 will have a better idea of what lies ahead.”