Many stunning objects in our solar system have tails. We see them most often in comets, meteoroids, asteroids, etc. Tails are formed when dust and ice on these objects burn up as they heat up, which results in debris letting loose and leaving a trail behind the comet. As it turns out, even our own solar system has a tail.
NASA has discovered that our entire solar system consisting of Earth and other planets has its own tail that stretches 93 billion miles long. You may have not given it any thought really, but our solar system is also flying through the universe just like a comet would, leaving behind its own trail of space dust and ice.
NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) is currently out in space and mapping the edges of the solar system. Specifically, it has recently mapped the boundaries of the tail of the heliosphere, which is something that has never been possible before. Scientists have long assumed that the solar system has a tail, but we’ve never been able to see until now.
It’s officially called a “heliotail,” and it’s made up of both slow and fast-moving particles that were released by the sun. These particles escape the magnetic field surrounding the solar system and are invisible to the naked eye by the time they reach the edge of this magnetic field, but luckily, NASA is able to map them out with IBEX.
Scientists, astronomers, and researchers are still determining exactly how long the tail is, since 93 billion miles is simply just a rough estimate, but it seems that NASA has most of the details confirmed, and the study was published today in The Astrophysical Journal.