NASA's Animation of Radiation Zooming Through Space Is Absolutely Mesmerizing
NASA's New Horizons space probe returned some incredible never-before-seen images of Pluto in July 2015. But on its journey to the dwarf planet, it also collected years' worth of data that could help us figure out how to get humans safely to Mars.
NASA turned that data into a mesmerizing animation:
What you're looking at is an animation of radiation flying through space.
The sun is constantly spitting out a stream of high-energy particles called solar wind. Occasionally, it sends out larger clumps of particles called Coronal Mass Ejections, or CMEs. These solar winds and CMEs spread out and combine with one another into larger clouds as they travel away from the sun. The clouds stretch and form "thin ring shapes" once they get to the far reaches of the solar system, according to NASA.
NASA has solar observatories set up to study solar winds and CMEs right after they erupt from the sun, but this is the first time we've gotten a good look at the solar wind around Pluto. The ring shapes are very different than the giant balloon shapes that NASA's solar observatories have recorded.
The new solar wind data will be critical for planning future space missions.
"Understanding the environment through which our spacecraft travel can ultimately help protect them from radiation and other potentially damaging effects," NASA explained.
It could also help us figure out how to protect astronauts from radiation as they travel to places like Mars and beyond.
You can watch the whole NASA animation below: