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The Interstellar 'Etheric' Cloud Index

This Interstellar 'Etheric' Cloud Index has been created for those seeking information that explains the scientific and metaphysical references to the arrival of an interstellar cloud that will drive evolutionary change for all life on Earth and all the other planets in our solar system. This interstellar cloud has been given a variety of names by the scientific community such as Local Fluff and 'G Cloud' but the metaphysical community have referred to this as an 'Etheric' cloud and more recently it has been acknowledged as the arrival of primordial 'Adamantine' particles. It is widely accepted by those who understand the implications, that it is the arrival of this interstellar molecular cloud that has been effecting the sun in the last few decades as the sun has passed through into the outermost tenuous regions of this cloud, populated with more dense filaments of plasma. It is fair to say that astronomers are not able to judge accurately astronomical distances in space, or distinguish the arrival of a moderately dense, but still not inconsequential cloudlet, hence over the last 30 years or so, the estimated time of arrival of a dense interstellar cloud has been stated to be up to 50,000 years. Therefore, there has been confusion because it seems that a cloudlet has arrived and some astronomers believe we entered the tenuous outer edges of a moderately dense cloud in the early 1990s. The arrival of an interstellar cloud of dense dusty plasma or an 'etheric cloud' is understood to be the most significant driver for massive evolutionary change within our solar system. The following quote from a metaphysical source indicates that the astronomical community had been aware for many decades that our solar system was being approached by an interstellar molecular cloud but from a metaphysical viewpoint, humanity must expect there to be significant consequences for the spiritual evolution of mankind.

"There will be rumours of it from the scientific levels, just a little bit said here and there in scientific reports, to condition people for some strange events. And if we look, we will find these references in newspapers and magazines. Some of the different esoteric groups will receive this information in one way or the another through their leaders or through their contact with it […]

"Very shortly there will be scientific murmurings and mutterings about this phenomenon, because this vast etheric cloud will very definitely affect the astral material level, material substance of the planet and of the physical bodies as well as the etheric bodies."

February 24, 1961, Night Class of Viola Petitt Neal, Through the Curtain (1983) by Viola Petitt Neal, Ph.D.

This index provides a good selection of relevant background reading material.

Susan Joy Rennison

18th April 2011, (last update 14th July 2011)

Essential Background Information

The Local Bubble, The Local Interstellar Cloud, The Local Fluff and Interstellar 'Cloudlets'.
Near-Earth Supernovas, NASA Science News, January 6, 2003

"Some of those cloudlets might be hundreds of times denser than the local fluff... If we ran into one, it would compress the Sun's magnetic field and allow more cosmic rays to penetrate the inner solar system, with unknown effects on climate and life." Priscilla Frisch, astrophysicist

The Local Bubble is a cavity in the interstellar medium (ISM) of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way. It is at least 300 light years across and has a neutral hydrogen density approximately one tenth of the 0.5 atoms per cubic centimetre average for the ISM in the Milky Way. The hot diffuse gas in the Local Bubble emits X-rays.

The Solar System has been travelling through the Local Bubble for the last 3 million years. Its current location lies in the Local Interstellar Cloud [LIC] or Local Fluff, a minor region of denser material within the Bubble. The cloud formed where the Local Bubble and the Loop I Bubble met. The gas within the LIC has a density of approximately 0.1 atoms per cubic centimeter.

During the past few million years, wispy filaments of interstellar gas have drifted into the Local Bubble. Our solar system is immersed in one of those filaments--the "local fluff," a relatively cool (7000 K) cloud containing 0.1 atoms per cubic centimeter.

There are, however, denser clouds out there. The Sco-Cen complex, for instance, is sending a stream of interstellar "cloudlets" in our direction. "Some of those cloudlets might be hundreds of times denser than the local fluff," says Priscilla Frisch, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago who studies the local interstellar medium. "If we ran into one, it would compress the Sun's magnetic field and allow more cosmic rays to penetrate the inner solar system, with unknown effects on climate and life."

Please note: As explained below, the Local Fluff is believed by some scientists to be the low density, ionized outer fringes of an interstellar cloud. In the 1990s, it is believed that the Sun entered the outer regions of a more dense part of this cloud. As scientific observations suggests, our solar system has indeed now run into a dense cloudlet in the Local Fluff...

Click here for pop-up image. "The Local Bubble." It's peanut-shaped, about 300 light years long, and filled with almost nothing. Gas inside the bubble is very thin (0.001 atoms per cubic centimeter) and very hot (a million degrees)--that's 1000 times less dense and 100 to 100,000 times hotter than ordinary interstellar material. Click here for more information.

Click here for pop-up image.
An artist's concept of the Local Interstellar Cloud, also known as the "local fluff." Credit: Linda Huff (American Scientist) and Priscilla Frisch (University of Chicago).

Mainstream & Scientific Media Reports

Surprise: Solar System "Force Field" Shrinks Fast
NASA craft reveals unexpected unpredictability of our protective bubble.
National Geographic News, September 30, 2010

It's cold, dusty, and bereft of planets, but the outskirts of our solar system are anything but dull, according to increasing evidence from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) craft.

As charged particles flow out from the sun, they eventually bump up against interstellar medium–the relatively empty areas between stars. These interactions "inflate" a protective bubble that shields Earth and the entire solar system from potentially harmful cosmic rays (solar system pictures).

Now IBEX has surprised astronomers by showing that this force field-like structure, the heliosphere, is an unexpectedly dynamic, unpredictable boundary. [...]

But when scientists compared IBEX maps of the heliosphere taken just six months apart, the researchers found that it had shrunk to a much greater extent than expected.

This is major! The heliosphere is our protective bubble that shields us from from galactic cosmic rays, so we can expect major consequences.

Ribbon at Edge of Our Solar System: Will the Sun Enter a Million-Degree Cloud of Interstellar Gas?
Is the Sun going to enter a million-degree galactic cloud of interstellar gas soon?
ScienceDaily (May 24, 2010)

"We observe the Ribbon because the Sun is approaching a boundary between our Local Cloud of interstellar gas and another cloud of a very hot and turbulent gas."
Prof. Stan Grzedzielski from the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland

First full-sky maps of the emissions of energetic neutral atoms (ENA), obtained last year by IBEX, showed a surprising arc-like feature called the Ribbon. This astonishing discovery was later announced by NASA as one of the most important findings in space exploration made in 2009. [...]

The model developed by the Polish-US team suggests that the boundary between the Local Cloud and the Local Bubble might be not within a few light years from the Sun, as it was believed earlier, but within just a thousand of astronomical units, a thousand-fold closer. This might mean that the Solar System could enter the million-degree Local Bubble cloud as early as the next century.

"Nothing unusual, the Sun frequently traverses various clouds of interstellar gas during its galactic journey," comments Grzedzielski. Such clouds are of very low density, much lower than the best vacuum obtained in Earth labs. Once in, the heliosphere will reform and may shrink a little, the level of cosmic radiation entering the magnetosphere may rise a bit, but nothing more. "Perhaps future generations will have to learn how to better harden their space hardware against stronger radiation," suggests Grzedzielski.

Fluffy Mystery at Edge of Solar System Solved, 23 December 2009

"Using data from Voyager, we have discovered a strong magnetic field just outside the solar system... This magnetic field holds the interstellar cloud together ["The Fluff"] and solves the long-standing puzzle of how it can exist at all."
Merav Opher, NASA Heliophysics

Our solar system is passing through a cloud of interstellar material that shouldn't be there, astronomers say. And now the decades-old Voyager spacecraft have helped solved the mystery.

The cloud is called the "Local Fluff." It's about 30 light-years wide and holds a wispy mix of hydrogen and helium atoms, according to a NASA statement released today. Stars that exploded nearby, about 10 million years ago, should have crushed the Fluff or blown it away.[...]

The Fluff is much more strongly magnetized than anyone had previously suspected," Opher said. "This magnetic field can provide the extra pressure required to resist destruction." Opher and colleagues detail the discovery in the Dec. 24 issue of the journal Nature. [...]

The Fluff is held at bay just beyond the edge of the solar system by the sun's magnetic field, which is inflated by solar wind into a magnetic bubble more than 6.2 billion miles wide (10 billion km). Called the "heliosphere," this bubble protect the inner solar system from galactic cosmic rays and interstellar clouds. The two Voyagers are located in the outermost layer of the heliosphere, or "heliosheath," where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas.

This strong magnetic field implies it might have the ability to 'pop' our heliosphere bubble.

Cloud Tripping Through the Milky Way
JILA/NISTCU, Summer 2009

"... we'll enter the G cloud in less than 5,000 years – perhaps even tomorrow. Once that happens, there's a chance the G cloud will affect the Sun's solar wind and Earth's climate."
Jeffrey L. Linsky, assistant professor of astronomy at Wesleyan University

Our solar system is currently sprinting around the center of the Milky Way at a speed of 26 km/sec. But, we're not just hurtling through empty space, according to Fellow Jeff Linsky and former graduate student Seth Redfield (now assistant professor of astronomy at Wesleyan University). We're surrounded by 15 "nearby" clouds of warm gas, all within 50 light years of the Sun.[...]

According to astrophysicists Seth Redfield and Jeffrey L. Linsky: "At the moment, we are between clouds. The solar system has "just" left the LIC, which got its name because astronomers once believed we were still inside it. We're now on a collision course with the G cloud, which stands between us and the galactic center. [...] we'll enter the G cloud in less than 5,000 years – perhaps even tomorrow. Once that happens, there's a chance the G cloud will affect the Sun's solar wind and Earth's climate."

For instance, a dense enough cloud could push in on the solar wind and pollute the interplanetary medium, decreasing the Sun's intensity and cooling the Earth. A very dense cloud could even produce an ice age on the Earth. Luckily, the G cloud isn't dense enough to cause an ice age. It would only cool the earth a little relative to the environment we're in now. Still, Linsky says, it's only a matter of time until we encounter a cloud that is dense enough to radically alter our climate.

We are being told that dramatic changes in Earth's climate depends on what kind of cosmic environment we happen to encounter as the solar system travels through space.

How a Cloud of Space Dust Could Wipe Out Life on Earth

Discover Magazine, December 30, 2008

No, nothing is going to blot out the sun. But recent observations and numerical simulations suggest that eventually–in a few millennia, maybe–the solar system may plow into a cloud of gas and dust a thousand times denser than the space we travel through now. This interstellar fog could reduce the sun's sphere of influence until most of the outer planets are sitting naked in space. Dust and gas will penetrate as far as Earth's orbit and may begin eating away at the oxygen in our upper atmosphere. The solar wind, now greatly compressed, will no longer provide adequate protection from the high-speed electrons and ions ripping through space. These cosmic rays will tear into the atmosphere, to the detriment of the delicate molecules of life. [...]

Until recently, worry about such events rested on mere speculation. During the past decade, however, astronomers have found real hazards associated with actual objects in the sky. For example, according to recent calculations, the sun will soon be getting a visit from a stellar neighbor, a visit that might send a rain of comets hurtling toward Earth.

(Don't panic. Astronomers are very different from the rest of us when it comes to their sense of time. When they say "soon," they're talking at least tens of thousands of years.) And the edge of that possibly disastrous cloud of interstellar gas is less than four light-years away. Of course, it might take 10,000 non-light-years to get here, but in cosmic terms that's a mere heartbeat.

Hmmmm.... but cosmic rays are now at a space age high and still increasing, our atmosphere has already started to disappear and what's more, comets and asteroids are arriving thick and fast...

Sun's protective 'bubble' is shrinking
The protective bubble around the sun that helps to shield the Earth from harmful interstellar radiation is shrinking and getting weaker, Nasa scientists have warned.
The Telegraph, 18 Oct 2008

"There is no imminent danger, but it is hard to know what the future holds. Certainly if the solar wind pressure was to continue to go down and the heliosphere were to almost evaporate then we would be in this sea of galactic cosmic rays. That could have some large effects." Dr McComas,Southwest Research Institute, IBEX

New data has revealed that the heliosphere, the protective shield of energy that surrounds our solar system, has weakened by 25 per cent over the past decade and is now at it lowest level since the space race began 50 years ago. [...] If the heliosphere continues to weaken, scientists fear that the amount of cosmic radiation reaching the inner parts of our solar system, including Earth, will increase.

This could result in growing levels of disruption to electrical equipment, damage satellites and potentially even harm life on Earth. But Dr McComas added that it was still unclear exactly what would happen if the heliosphere continued to weaken or what even what the timescale for changes in the heliosphere are. [...]

"Around 90 per cent of the galactic cosmic radiation is deflected by our heliosphere, so the boundary protects us from this harsh galactic environment."

Scientists find the dent in our solar system
Uneven outer edge attributed to changes in interstellar magnetic field
MSNBC, December 10, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO - New observations from the edge of our solar system show what scientists have suspected for several years: The solar system is squashed.

The edge of the solar system is roughly where the solar wind runs up against thin gas found between the stars in the rest of the Milky Way. This "wind," actually a thin gas of electrically charged particles, blows outward in all directions from the sun at between 1 million and 2 million mph (1.6 million to 3.2 million kilometers per hour), forming a bubble called the heliosphere with boundaries far beyond the orbit of Pluto.

The boundary between the heliosphere and interstellar space is an abrupt shock wave, called the solar wind termination shock. In December 2004, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft crossed this boundary and hinted that the shockwave was dented, or uneven in places. Its sister spacecraft, Voyager 2, was also launched in 1977 on a mission to the outer planets. Voyager 2 crossed the shock boundary Aug. 30 this year, about 10 billion miles away from where its twin crossed. The probe confirmed that the shock wave was squashed. It was pushed in about 1 billion miles closer to the sun by the local interstellar magnetic field where Voyager 2 crossed, compared to Voyager 1's crossing point.

"So there's something outside pushing in on the southern hemisphere of the heliosphere," said Voyager mission scientist Ed Stone, that is "otherwise distorting a more or less spherical surface." Stone says this "dent" in the heliosphere is evidence of how strong the interstellar magnetic field is.

NASA Study Suggests Giant Space Clouds Iced Earth
Ames Research Center, NASA, March 3, 2005

"Computer models show dramatic climate change can be caused by interstellar dust accumulating in Earth's atmosphere during the solar system's immersion into a dense space cloud," Alex Pavlov, scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Eons ago, giant clouds in space may have led to global extinctions, according to two recent technical papers supported by NASA's Astrobiology Institute. One paper outlines a rare scenario in which Earth iced over during snowball glaciations, after the solar system passed through dense space clouds. In a more likely scenario, less dense giant molecular clouds may have enabled charged particles to enter Earth's atmosphere, leading to destruction of much of the planet's protective ozone layer. This resulted in global extinctions, according to the second paper. Both recently appeared in the Geophysical Research Letters.

Collisions of the solar system with dense space clouds are rare, but according to Pavlov's research, more frequent solar system collisions, with moderately dense space clouds, can be devastating. He outlined a complex series of events that would result in loss of much of Earth's protective ozone layer, if the solar system collided with a moderately dense space cloud. The research outlined a scenario that begins as Earth passes through a moderately dense space cloud that cannot compress the outer edge of the sun's heliosphere into a region within the Earth's orbit. [...]

However, because of the large flow of hydrogen from space clouds into the sun's heliosphere, the sun greatly increases its production of electrically charged cosmic rays from the hydrogen particles. This also increases the flow of cosmic rays towards Earth. Normally, Earth's magnetic field and ozone layer protect life from cosmic rays and the sun's dangerous ultraviolet radiation.

Moderately dense space clouds are huge, and the solar system could take as long as 500,000 years to cross one of them. Once in such a cloud, the Earth would be expected to undergo at least one magnetic reversal. During a reversal, electrically charged cosmic rays can enter Earth's atmosphere instead of being deflected by the planet's magnetic field.

Cosmic rays can fly into the atmosphere and break up nitrogen molecules to form nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen oxide catalysts would set off the destruction of as much as 40 percent of the protective ozone in the planet's upper atmosphere across the globe and destruction of about 80 percent of the ozone over the polar regions according to Pavlov.

The Heliosphere is Tilted
- implications for the 'Galactic weather forecast'?

European Space Agency, 13 Mar 2000

The local interstellar cloud

Our Solar System entered an interstellar cloud 10,000 years ago. Today it is speeding through this nebulosity at Mach 2 behind a supersonic shock wave - in much the same way that a Concorde crosses the Atlantic at supersonic speed. Since its formation 4.6 billion years ago our Solar System has encountered numerous interstellar clouds, knots, filaments, shells and bubbles of different sizes and contents on its path through the Milky Way.

For more than 80 years astronomers have been attracted by these past and future encounters, have tried to understand the physics behind them in order to decipher the dynamic interplay between the interstellar material and the Solar System.

There is some chance that the Solar System will cross small dense clouds that have diameters up to 100 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. These encounters may increase the number of interstellar charged particles bombarding Earth, with the risk of altering the climate here. Our interstellar environment may thus be important for the short and long-term prospects for life on Earth.

Even though there is still some work to be done before it will be possible to construct a 'Galactic weather forecast', it is clear that for the past 200,000 years we have been in a favourable environment that has not altered our climate significantly. Recent studies by a group of European scientists of the conditions at the outermost edge of the Solar System using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and Voyager have shown some surprising results.

Cosmic clouds threaten Earth
BBC Science News, May 28, 1998

"The protective solar wind would be extinguished, and cosmic radiation might lead to gene mutations. Hydrogen would bombard the Earth, producing increased cloud cover, leading perhaps to global warming, or extreme amounts of precipitation and ice ages." Professor Gary Zank, from the Bartol Research Institute at the University of Delaware

Hollywood's latest disaster movie fixation, the Earth threatened by the impact of giant comets or asteroids, could be dangerously out of date according to scientists in the US. They believe life on Earth is more likely to be wiped out by an impact with a cosmic cloud. [...]

"Unfortunately, we could bump into a small cloud at any time, and we probably won't see it coming. Without the heliosphere, neutral hydrogen would interact with our atmosphere, possibly producing catastrophic climate changes, while our exposure to deadly cosmic radiation in the form of very high-energy cosmic rays would increase.

"We won't know that our heliosphere is collapsing until we see highly elevated levels of neutral hydrogen and cosmic rays," said Professor Zank. Although there is no need to panic right now, our descendants in 50,000 years should be alarmed.

Pushed by galactic wind, a particularly troublesome cloud zone located in a star-forming region near the Aquila Rift, about 815 light years away, is "clearly headed our way" according to Professor Zank.

The main warning is the small knots of gas in the "Local Fluff" that we won't see until it arrives.

This is probably the best early warning report given to the general public, despite the misleading estimate that a dense cloud could arrive in 50,000 years, because something else has arrived in the meantime...

Our solar system may be headed for an encounter with a dense cloud of interstellar matter
University of Chicago News Office, June 9, 1996

Our solar system may be headed for an encounter with a dense cloud of interstellar matter–gas and dust that could have substantial implications for our solar system's interplanetary environment, according to University of Chicago astrophysicist Priscilla Frisch. The good news is that it probably won't happen for 50,000 years. Frisch presented the results of her research Monday, June 10, at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Madison, Wisc.

Frisch has been investigating the interstellar gas in the local neighborhood of our solar system, which is called the Local Interstellar Medium (LISM). This interstellar gas is within 100 light years of the Sun. The Sun has a trajectory through space, and for most of the last five million years, said Frisch, it has been moving through a region of space between the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy that is almost devoid of matter. Only recently, within the last few thousand years, she estimates, the Sun has been traveling through a relatively low-density interstellar cloud.

"This cloud, although low density on average, has a tremendous amount of structure to it," Frisch said. "And it is not inconsistent with our data that the Sun may eventually encounter a portion of the cloud that is a million times denser than what we're in now."

Another early warning that scientists knew there was a a dense cloud of interstellar matter approaching our solar system.

Click here for pop-up image. This is an artist's concept of our Heliosphere as it travels through our galaxy with its major features labeled; the Termination Shock, the Heliosphere, the Heliopause and the Bow shock. Credit: NASA

"Prior to IBEX, most scientists believed that the global boundaries of our solar system were controlled mainly by the motion of our solar system through the galaxy and the solar wind, an extremely fast flow of electrically charged matter that flows out from the Sun. The IBEX maps reveal the galactic magnetic field is also a critical part of the Sun's interaction with the galaxy." David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute. Click for more IBEX info and visuals here

Click here for pop-up image. The Sun traveling through the Galaxy happens to cross at the present time a blob of gas about ten light-years across, with a temperature of 6-7 thousand degrees kelvin. This so-called Local Interstellar Cloud is immersed in a much larger expanse of a million-degree hot gas, named the Local Bubble. (Credit: SRC/Tentaris,ACh/Maciej Frolow)

Click here for pop-up image.
Shown in a Hubble Space Telescope image, the "astrosphere" around the star L.L. Orionis approximates the heliosphere around our solar system. Credit: ESA/NASA

Click here for pop-up image.

The Galactic Environment of the Sun The closest star-forming region on the outskirts of the Local Bubble is about 400 light-years away in the Scorpius-Centaurus association. The molecular clouds from which stars are formed are both cooler (less than 100 degrees) and denser (over 1,000 atoms per cubic centimeter) than the Local Interstellar Cloud. Star formation in the Scorpius-Centaurus Association around four million years ago has created strong stellar winds and supernovae that have been blowing clouds of gas and dust towards the Solar System.

NOAO Seminar poster
NOAO is the national center for ground-based nighttime astronomy in the United States and is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).

NASA Workshop poster
Exploration of Near Earth Objects (NEO) Objectives Workshop August 10-11, 2010 Washington, DC

Click here for pop-up image.
Components of the heliosphere.
The heliosphere is a bubble in space "blown" into the interstellar medium (the hydrogen and helium gas that permeates the galaxy) by the solar wind. Although electrically neutral atoms from interstellar space can penetrate this bubble, virtually all of the material in the heliosphere emanates from the Sun itself.
Double click image for a useful tutorial. Credit: NASA Ames.

Question: What are energetic neutral atoms? For student info and short video click above image.

Scientists find a dent at the edge of our solar system
This illustration shows the positions and trajectories of Voyager 1 (at 94 Astronomical Units from the sun) and Voyager 2 (at 84 AU) as they pass through the termination shock at the edge of our solar system. Readings from the two probes indicate that the solar system is "dented" due to the dynamics of the solar wind.
Image: Illustration of Voyager trajectories Opher et al. 2006 via NASA

Article: American Scientist The Galactic Environment of the Sun
Issue: January-February 2000
Volume 88, Number 1
Page: 52
By Priscilla Frisch
Print Friendly version link

Artist view of one of the three Swarm satellites
The SWARM MISSION, is due to be launched in 2012 and will consist of a constellation of 3 satellites that together they will enable scientists to accurately measure the Earth's magnetic field strength. Click image to watch the video Earth's Invisible Shield available at National Geographic Channel that provides a short summary of the scientific belief that there will be an imminent reversal of the Earth's magnetic fieled and details of Project Swarm in order to predict when the magnetic field is about to switch. More swarm images here

Article: Interstellar Dust Grains as Freeze-Dried Bacterial Cells: Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's Fantastic Journey
Intro: British astronomers Sir Fred Hoyle and Dr. Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe began their collaborative investigations of the composition of cosmic dust in the 1960s, not knowing that their findings over four decades would lead them to the conclusion that the Milky Way Galaxy and the Universe are teeming with microbial life, and that such life may be transported from once cosmic location to another (i.e., theory of panspermia). For more information see Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's Analysis of Interstellar Dust here

Cosmic dust is a type of dust composed of particles in space which are a few molecules to 0.1 mm in size. Cosmic dust can be further distinguished by its astronomical location; for example: intergalactic dust, interstellar dust, interplanetary dust (such as in the zodiacal cloud) and circumplanetary dust (such as in a planetary ring. For more information click the image above.

VISTA Telescope
This photograph from early 2009 shows the VISTA telescope, which along with the VST (VLT Survey Telescope) is one of two ESO survey telescopes about to start work surveying the southern skies. VISTA has a main mirror that is 4.1 metres across and is by far the largest telescope in the world dedicated to surveying the sky at near-infrared wavelengths. Observing at wavelengths longer than those visible to the human eye will allow VISTA to study objects that may be almost impossible to see in visible light because they are cool, obscured by dust clouds or because their light has been stretched towards redder wavelengths by the expansion of space during the light's long journey from the early Universe. Credit: Steven Beard/UKATC/ESO

Available research papers, data collections & books

Title: Interstellar Dust Inside and Outside the Heliosphere
Authors: Krueger, H., & Gruen, E. (2008).

ABSTRACT: Measurements by dust detectors on interplanetary spacecraft appear to indicate a substantial flux of interstellar particles with masses exceeding 10^-12gram. The reported abundance of these massive grains cannot be typical of interstellar gas: it is incompatible with both interstellar elemental abundances and the observed extinction properties of the interstellar dust population. We discuss the likelihood that the Solar System is by chance located near an unusual concentration of massive grains and conclude that this is unlikely, unless dynamical processes in the ISM are responsible for such concentrations. Radiation pressure might conceivably drive large grains into "magnetic valleys". If the influx direction of interstellar gas and dust is varying on a ~10 yr timescale, as suggested by some observations, this would have dramatic implications for the small-scale structure of the interstellar medium.

Download (.pdf) here.

Hmmm... magnetic valleys with massive particles that appear on an ~10 yr timescale, this is certainly most interesting.

Title: The Structure of the Local Interstellar Medium IV: Dynamics, Morphology, Physical Properties, and Implications of Cloud-Cloud Interactions
Authors: Seth Redfield, Jeffrey L. Linsky (Submitted on 27 Sep 2007)

We present an empirical dynamical model of the local interstellar medium based on 270 radial-velocity measurements for 157 sight lines toward nearby stars. Physical-parameter measurements (i.e., temperature, turbulent velocity, depletions) are available for 90 components, or one-third of the sample, enabling initial characterizations of the physical properties of LISM clouds. The model includes 15 warm clouds located within 15 pc of the Sun, each with a different velocity vector. [...] Cloud-cloud collisions may be responsible for the filamentary morphologies found in ~1/3 of LISM clouds, the distribution of clouds along the boundaries of the two nearest clouds (LIC and G), the detailed shape and heating of the Mic Cloud, the location of nearby radio scintillation screens, and the location of a LISM cold cloud. Contrary to previous claims, the Sun appears to be located in the transition zone between the LIC and G Clouds.

Download (.pdf) here.

Title: Paleoheliosphere versus PaleoLISM
Author: Priscilla C. Frisch (Submitted on 17 Jan 2006)

Abstract: Speculations that encounters with interstellar clouds modify the terrestrial climate have appeared in the scientific literature for over 85 years. The articles in this volume seek to give substance to these speculations by examining the exact mechanisms that link the pressure and composition of the interstellar medium surrounding the Sun to the physical properties of the inner heliosphere at the Earth.

Excerpt: Unfortunately, these scientific conclusions also impact the politically loaded issue of global warming. [...]

"The articles in this volume show firmly that the interaction between the heliosphere and ISM depends on the detailed boundary conditions set for the heliosphere by each type of interstellar cloud encountered by the Sun, and that the galactic environment of the Sun changes over both geologically short time scales of < 10 5 years, and long time scales of > 107 years. This interaction, in turn, affects the flux of gas, dust, and energetic particles in the inner heliosphere.

Download (.pdf) here. (This paper also appears in the book "Solar Journey: The Significance of Our Galactic Environment for the Heliosphere and Earth", Springer, in press (2006), editor P. C. Frisch.)

Title: Terrestrial atmospheric effects induced by counterstreaming dense interstellar cloud material
Authors: A. Yeghikyan and H. Fahr
Issue: Astronomy & Astrophysics Vol 425, No. 3 October 111 2004

Abstract: The Solar System during its life has travelled more than 10 times through dense interstellar clouds with particle concentrations of 102-103 ${\rm cm}^{-3}$ and more, compressing the heliosphere to heliopause dimensions smaller than 1 AU and thus bringing the Earth in immediate contact with the interstellar matter. [...] As we show, the resulting strongly increased neutral hydrogen fluxes ranging from 1099 to 1011 ${\rm cm^{-2}~s^{-1}}$ cause substantial changes in the terrestrial atmosphere. During the phase of the immersion into the cloud the resulting flux of neutral hydrogen incident on the terrestrial atmosphere in the steady state would be balanced by the upward escape flux of H-atoms and the downward flux of water molecules, which is the product of the atmospheric hydrogen-oxygen chemistry via even-odd reaction schemes. In that case hydrogen acts as a chemical agent to remove oxygen atoms and to cause ozone concentration reductions above 50 km by a factor of 1.5 at the stratopause to about a factor of 1000 and more at the mesopause. Thus, depending on the specific encounter parameters the high mixing ratio of hydrogen in the Earth's atmosphere may substantially decrease the ozone concentration in the mesosphere and may trigger an ice age of relatively long duration.

Download (.pdf) here.

Title: Consequences of a Change in the Galactic Environment of the Sun
Authors: Gary P. Zank, Priscilla C. Frisch (Submitted on 20 Jan 1999) Journal reference: Astrophys.J. 518 (1999) 965-973
Citation: arXiv:astro-ph/9901279v1

Abstract: The interaction of the heliosphere with interstellar clouds has attracted interest since the late 1920's, both with a view to explaining apparent quasi-periodic climate "catastrophes" as well as periodic mass extinctions. Until recently, however, models describing the solar wind - local interstellar medium (LISM) interaction self-consistently had not been developed. Here, we describe the results of a two-dimensional (2D) simulation of the interaction between the heliosphere and an interstellar cloud with the same properties as currently, except that the neutral H density is increased from the present value of n(H) ~ 0.2 cm^-3 to 10 cm^-3. The mutual interaction of interstellar neutral hydrogen and plasma is included. The heliospheric cavity is reduced considerably in size (approximately 10 - 14 AU to the termination shock in the upstream direction) and is highly dynamical. The interplanetary environment at the orbit of the Earth changes markedly, with the density of interstellar H increasing to ~2 cm^-3. The termination shock itself experiences periods where it disappears, reforms and disappears again. Considerable mixing of the shocked solar wind and LISM occurs due to Rayleigh-Taylor-like instabilities at the nose, driven by ion-neutral friction. Implications for two anomalously high concentrations of 10Be found in Antarctic ice cores 33 kya and 60 kya, and the absence of prior similar events, are discussed in terms of density enhancements in the surrounding interstellar cloud. The calculation presented here supports past speculation that the galactic environment of the Sun moderates the interplanetary environment at the orbit of the Earth, and possibly also the terrestrial climate.

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Title: The Local Bubble, Local Fluff, and Heliosphere
Author: Priscilla C. Frisch (Submitted on 14 Oct 1997)
Citation: arXiv:astro-ph/9710141v1

Abstract: The properties of the Local Bubble, Local Fluff complex of nearby interstellar clouds, and the heliosphere are mutually constrained by data and theory. Observations and models of the diffuse radiation field, interstellar ionization, pick-up ion and anomalous cosmic-ray populations, and interstellar dust link the physics of these regions. The differences between the one-asymmetric-superbubble and two-superbubble views of the Local Bubble are discussed.

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Title: Planetophysical State of the Earth and Life
Author: DR. Alexey N. Dmitriev
Published in Russian, IICA Transactions, Volume 4, 1997 *Professor of Geology and Mineralogy, and Chief Scientific Member, United Institute of Geology, Geophysics, and Mineralogy, Siberian Department of Russian Academy of Sciences. (Available in English)

Excerpt: In its travel through interstellar space, the Heliosphere travels in the direction of the Solar Apex in the Hercules Constellation. On its way it has met (1960's) non-homogeneities of matter and energy containing ions of Hydrogen, Helium, and Hydroxyl in addition to other elements and combinations. This kind of interstellar space dispersed plasma is presented by magnetized strip structures and striations. The Heliosphere [solar system] transition through this structure has led to an increase of the shock wave in front of the Solar System from 3 to 4 AU, to 40 AU, or more. This shock wave thickening has caused the formation of a collusive plasma in a parietal layer, which has led to a plasma overdraft around the Solar System, and then to its breakthrough into interplanetary domains [5,6]. This breakthrough constitutes a kind of matter and energy donation made by interplanetary space to our Solar System. [End of excerpt]

Title: Is the solar system entering a nearby interstellar cloud
Authors: Vidal-Madjar, A., Laurent, C., Bruston, P., & Audouze, J.
Journal: Astrophysical Journal, Part 1, vol. 223, July 15, 1978, p. 589-600.

Abstract Intro: A model, based on different observations of the local interstellar medium, indicates the presence of a very close interstellar cloud in front of the Scorpius-Ophiuchus association (almost in the direction of the galactic center) approaching the solar system from a distance of about 0.03 pc at a velocity of about 15--20 km s/sup -1/.

Map of Scientific Collaboration, made by Olivier Beauchesne showing research collaborations between cities.

Small-Scale Structure in the Interstellar Medium
Over the past 25 years, the existence of small clumps of dense neutral gas in the interstellar medium (ISM) has been confirmed repeatedly, with a myriad of observational techniques. Click image for more information and details more associated research papers.
Watson, J. K. and D. M. Meyer, Observations of ubiquitous small-scale structure in the di use interstellar medium, Astrophys. J., 473, L127{L130, 1996 Download (.pdf) here

Priscilla Frisch, Senior Scientist in Astronomy & Astrophysics, and member of the science team, Interstellar Boundary Explorer.
Click image above for her homepage. To read her recent press release about the IBEX discovery: Satellite reveals surprising cosmic 'weather' at edge of solar system, at Eureka Alert, click here

Solar Journey: The Significance of Our Galactic Environment for the Heliosphere and Earth, by Priscilla C. Frisch, Springer, 2006. Twelve articles from leading experts in diverse fields discuss the physical changes expected as the heliosphere adjusts to its galactic environment.
Click book cover to download ebook version.

Image: Map of the local galactic neighborhood. The Sun is located near the edge of a great void in interstellar matter known as the "local bubble" that is filled with hot low-density plasma. Several thousand years ago the Sun entered our local interstellar cloud (LIC), one of several nearby clouds composed of warm, low density (~0.3 atoms/cm3) material blowing at us from the direction of the Scorpius and Centaurus constellations.

Image: The heliosphere plowing through space.
Click image for the Southwest Research Institute video entitled 'IBEX Images our Heliosphere' on YouTube [4:22]. IBEX- After its first year in orbit imaging the neutral particles from the edge of our heliosphere, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer made some remarkable discoveries about the region of space that separates our home in the galaxy from the interstellar medium.

NASA: What defines the boundary of the solar system? (Video)

Poster: A workshop on Dust Spectroscopy and Dust Astronomy
"In a workshop style we want to discuss the present state and new venues in cosmic dust research. There are exciting new results from Cassini, Stardust, Spitzer, Herschel and other space missions that stimulate new ideas and theories. Major topics of the workshop will include interstellar dust, circumplanetary dust including dusty rings and space debris, presolar and cometary dust, dust in interplanetary space including Kuiper belt dust, dusty plasmas, dust in extrasolar dust rings, lunar dust, as well as laboratory measurements, instrumentation and space missions." Click above image for more info.

The Stardust Mission, Dusty Plasma Experiments, Plasma Physics & Cosmology

The Stardust Mission
NASA Discovery Missions

Stardust was the first space mission dedicated to studying a comet and the first solid sample return mission in over 30 years. Stardust captured thousands of particles of comet dust during a daring close encounter with comet Wild 2. It also brought back samples of interstellar dust that may consist of ancient presolar grains that are older than our solar system. Analysis of these fascinating celestial specks will yield important insights into the nature and origin of comets, the evolution of our solar system, and possibly even the origin of life itself.

Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast
Universe Today, January 15, 2010

Synopsis: The Stardust mission collected tiny interstellar dust particles by the spacecraft Stardust from the halo of dust and ice that make up comet Wild 2's coma. The collecting of these invaluable samples of cometary particles, will help scientists decipher the history of our solar system. But during its long voyage, Stardust also picked up a different type of sample – minuscule particles of interstellar dust that arrived at our solar system from distant stars, light years away. Stardust collected these particles between February and May 2000, and again between August and December 2002, while passing through a stream of dust that flows into our solar system from interstellar space. This 7-year Odyssey in space mission was judged to be a complete success when in January 15, 2006, when Stardust's precious samples were safely parachuted down to Earth.

The Max Planck Insitute celebrates 10 years of experiments with plasma crystals in space
Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, March, 2011

Synopsis: Plasma Crystals form under certain conditions in a complex ('dusty') plasma when electrically charged dust particles arrange in a regular macroscopic crystal lattice. This allows the investigation of the properties of condensed matter on the most fundamental level, the kinetic one. This means that basic processes, such as melting, can be followed by observing the motion of individual particles. Since plasma crystals were discovered in 1994 the interest in this research area - in theory and experimentally - has grown exponentially.

Recent News: Complex plasmas are made of micron-sized plastic spheres inside a low-temperature plasma (produced by an electrical high frequency discharge in Argon gas at low pressure) that are electrically charged and thus interact with each other. Under certain conditions, the particles arrange in a regular way forming a plasma crystal. On Earth this process is disturbed by gravity, but in weightlessness large crystals can be grown. This is why plasma crystal experiments are performed preferably in space.

In the past 10 years, plasma crystal experiments were performed successfully onboard the ISS, in a total of 27 missions on 85 days (with 90 minutes experiment time each) by 23 cosmonauts. This makes the plasma crystal facilities to the mostly used scientific experiments onboard the ISS. The results were published in numerous articles in refereed scientific journals.

Now we know that the astronauts are actually doing some interesting and relevant experiments in space.

Plasma Physics Processes of the Interstellar Medium

Authors: Steven Spangler, Marijke Haverkorn, Thomas Intrator, Russell Kulsrud, Alex Lazarian, Seth Redfield, Ellen Zweibel (Submitted on 24 Feb 2009) Publication: White paper submitted for consideration of the Astro2010 Decadal Survey Committee, in the area of "Galactic Neighborhood" (GAN) Cite as: arXiv:0902.4181v1 [astro-ph.GA]
"The coming years will be a golden era for interstellar magnetism studies, due to recent advances in radioastronomical techniques... Interstellar magnetism is an important science driver for these telescopes."

Introduction Excerpt: This "white paper" is directed to the GAN (galactic neighborhood) theme of the Decadal Survey. We are particularly interested in interstellar medium (ISM) phenomena which can be described by the laws of plasma physics. This is appropriate since nearly all of the ISM phases possess sufficient ionization for plasma behavior.

Our advocacy of this position comes from the conviction that many of the important processes and phenomena which occur in the ISM may elude satisfactory understanding until the plasma physics aspects are recognized, and results and methods of plasma physics brought to bear on them. Study of the interstellar medium is a major disciplinary area of astronomy and astrophysics. It is here where the process of star formation occurs. The cosmic rays are probably accelerated in the ISM, and its properties certainly govern their propagation and diffusion. [...]

We state at the outset that a major recommendation of this white paper is that the astronomy and astrophysics community very seriously consider supporting plasma laboratory work. In the past ten years, laboratories have been built which address important fundamental physical processes such as magnetic reconnection, nonlinear interaction of Alfvén waves and turbulence, magnetohydrodynamic instabilities, and the dynamo generation of magnetic fields. The information coming from these experiments can illuminate important astronomical phenomena.

It is entirely possible that the most important discovery in astronomy of the next decade will not come from an astronomical telescope, but from a physics laboratory experiment. The last section of this white paper lists some current laboratory experiments which investigate astronomically-relevant problems. [End of excerpt]

Artist's concept of Stardust capturing dust from the comet Wild 2.

Searching for Stardust
"NASA's Stardust mission delivered back to Earth its sample-return canister, with a much-publicized cargo of dust particles from the comet Wild 2 (pronounced Vilt 2). Stardust passed so close to the comet in January 2004, it was able to collect a pristine concentration of particles from the comet's nucleus (or coma). In addition to the comet samples, the Stardust canister contained something else: interstellar grains from the furthest most reaches of our solar system called "stardust". [...] A stream of interstellar dust was recently discovered flowing from the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent holder. This stream is bigger than the solar system itself. So, as the Stardust spacecraft traveled through interplanetary space, it opened its collector into the direction of the stream and captured some of the interstellar dust."

This scanning transmission X-ray microscope image shows a carbon-rich speck collected by the Stardust spacecraft. Each speck is about one-25,000th of an inch across and carbon rich, raising the possibility that it is full of the molecules that could serve as the building blocks for life. Click image for more information. Credit: Anna Butterworth and Tolek Tyliszczak

For more information click the image above. Do not miss the large image of a complex plasma in the weightlessness of space! For a direct link, click here. Credit: MK

A graph showing the huge growth of scientific research into dusty plasmas. Click image for larger version.

Astronomy rumours, 'scientific murmurings and mutterings'

Astronomy Cafe: Will the Sun soon be passing through a dust cloud?
" If the Earth's field is 'down' during the same time that the solar system has wandered into the new cloud, the cosmic ray flux at the Earth's surface could be many times higher than it now is. The biological effects may not be so severe. We just don't really know." Dr. Sten Odenwald, NASA Astronomer

It has been known for some years that the Sun is located near a cloud known as the Local Fluff, which in turn is inside a vast cavity in the interstellar medium called the Local Bubble. By studying the light from dozens of nearby stars, astronomers have for several decades been able to measure the amount of interstellar gases towards stars within several hundred light years of the Sun, and have found that we are located inside a low-density zone that is about 10 times lower in neutral atoms than the average of 0.5 atoms/cc elsewhere in the Milky Way on average. [...]

There is, apparently, a medium called the Local Fluff in which the solar system is embedded, which has a density of about 0.1 atoms/cc, a temperature of 10,000 K, and a relative velocity with respect to the solar system of about 20 km/sec based on a slight doppler shift in the reflected emission. McClintock and his coworkers in 1978 used data from the Copernicus satellite which involved measuring the Local Fluff towards stars with distances between 1.3 and 14 parsecs, and concluded that the Local Fluff extends about 3.5 parsecs. Frisch and York, in 1983, surveyed 140 stars out to several hundred parsecs from the Sun and detected a pattern of emission that indicated a dense cloud located about 17-35 parsecs from the Sun towards the Galactic Center in Sagittarius. In a 1983 Nature article ( vol 302, p. 806) Francesco Paresce proposed that the Local Fluff is the low density, ionized outer layers of this cloud, and that the Sun has just recently entered the outer regions of this dense cloud.

Astronomers Priscilla Frisch and Daniel Welty at the University of Chicago announced at the June, 1996 meeting of the American Astronomical Society ( see the New York Times, Science Supplement, June 18, issue) recapitulated the earlier proposal that the Sun may have already entered the Local Fluff a few thousand years ago. Observations by Dr. Jeffrey Linsky at the University of Colorado of 18 nearby stars indicated that the Local Fluff cloud surrounding the solar system was not a uniform cloud, but contained cloudlets of very different internal density with one of these located between the Sun and the nearby star Alpha Centauri. Astronomers John Watson and David Meyer at Northwestern University have also discovered that in the Sun's vicinity, the interstellar medium is filled with many cloudlets with a size comparable to the solar system. When the solar system enters such a cloud, the first thing that will happen will be that the magnetic field of the Sun, which now extends perhaps 100 AU from the Sun and 2-3 times the orbit of Pluto, will be compressed back into the inner solar system depending on the density of the medium that the Sun encounters. When this happens, the Earth may be laid bare to an increased cosmic ray bombardment. To make matters worse, the Earth's magnetic field is itself decreasing as we enter the next field reversal era in a few thousand years. If the Earth's field is 'down' during the same time that the solar system has wandered into the new could, the cosmic ray flux at the Earth's surface could be many times higher than it now is.

The biological effects may not be so severe. We just don't really know.

The Aussie Bloke Saga

"The best type of deception is that which most closely resembles the truth." Aussie Bloke

Synopsis: In late April 2004, someone who claimed to be a senior Australian astronomer began to reveal anonymously on various internet forums that 20 years previously, a team of Australian astronomers had discovered that an interstellar dust cloud or 'debris cloud' was headed towards Earth. This person became known as 'Aussie Bloke' and he claimed that 3 large objects were amongst this debris cloud and within a few months, two were certain to hit the earth. Since it it now April 2011, we can be certain that his predictions were wrong. Aussie Bloke stated that there were two objects that had velocities similar to comets but their purported density was more asteroid-like. The third object was a mystery and Aussie bloke states:

... [the] "anomaly" will have unknown effect but current estimates are not too encouraging. Diameter uncertain. mass uncertain. What IS known is is composed mostly of a crystalline substance of unknown consistency. Some have speculated that it could be a chunk of diamond from the core of a gas giant as noted here Diamond star thrills astronomers this fits it as well Astronomers will monitor a 'diamond in the Sky '...who knows. But it is weird and fast and coming this way. It is NOT a comet...NOR a is nothing like we have ever seen before. That is why we do not know what it will do if and when it hits us."

Aussie Bloke warns that the most tenuous outer fringes of this interstellar cloud have already arrived and he cites many effects of this debris or dust cloud and some of the measures he believes are being taken by world authorities. Here is a list of the most interesting statements:

  • The sun is now almost a white star and this is being caused by a massive influx of particles.
  • There has been a recent massive increase in meteorites and comets.
  • The invention of a telescope that can look through dust, was required to plot the course of incoming objects.
  • The real objective of the star wars missile defence project is to try and blast the largest cosmic objects out of the sky.
  • The weird weather is due to the outermost tenuous fringes of this dust cloud influencing terrestrial weather. or when they are virtually on top of us.
  • The Earth and the moon's orbits are becoming increasingly erratic. The moon just isnt where it should be nor is it stable.
  • Earth's rotation is slowing due to friction caused by the dust.

What is interesting is that because of the very apocalyptic tone, many people tried desperately to identify this person but the person who was eventually identified, denied any involvement in this hoax. Some people seriously studied this information and came to the conclusion that only some of the information from the character referred to Aussie Bloke was genuine and that false information was added by others claiming to be this same character. Yet, others claimed it was all a hoax to teach people a lesson. Well, Earth was not hit by any large comets, but 7 years later, it has been confirmed beyond doubt that a dense highly magnetised interstellar cloudlet in the Local Fluff is on our solar system's doorstep, we are experiencing a flood of dense dusty plasma and most of the observations made by Aussie Bloke have become even more apparent.

Parkes radio telescope, Australia Credit: Science photo library

Radio astronomy dish at the VLBA in Hawaii. Credit: VLBI
Using the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), astronomers have been able to measure opacity and spectral variations on tiny scales toward multi-component extragalactic radio sources. VLBI involves using a number of antenna linked together to create a giant antenna which can resolve features with smaller angles. The band of radio waves used depends on what they want to achieve for the particular experiment.

According to the New Scientist: "Bizarre planets with internal layers of diamond many kilometres thick may form in carbon-rich areas of the galaxy, a new study suggests. The diamond-rich planets could form from the dusty protoplanetary discs found around many stars, if they are rich in carbon and poor in oxygen, says Marc Kuchner at Princeton University, New Jersey, US." Source: Carbon-rich planets may boast diamond interiors

Click here for pop-up image.
As proof there were celestial objects on target to hit Earth, Aussie Bloke posted an SWAN image, dated the 29th May 2004, that revealed three bright spots that would represent these objects comets. For more background on how this image was derived, see NASA's webpage SWAN Far Side Imaging. Original source:

Credit: Unknown

Susan Joy Rennison, B.Sc. Hons. (Physics with Geophysics),
18th April 2011, (last update 14th July 2011)

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“Space weather has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents. Successfully preparing for space weather events is an all-of-nation endeavor that requires partnerships across governments, emergency managers, academia, the media, the insurance industry, non-profits, and the private sector.”

Executive Order –– Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events
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