222a0332bd69330e9ac4109495a420ca.jpg

Farthest Regions

- Region

The point at which the Solar System ends and interstellar space begins is not precisely defined because its outer boundaries are shaped by two forces, the solar wind and the Sun's gravity. The limit of the solar wind's influence is roughly four times Pluto's distance from the Sun; this heliopause, the outer boundary of the heliosphere, is considered the beginning of the interstellar medium. The Sun's Hill sphere, the effective range of its gravitational dominance, is thought to extend up to a thousand times farther and encompasses the hypothetical Oort cloud.

- Heliosphere

The heliosphere is a stellar-wind bubble, a region of space dominated by the Sun, in which it radiates its solar wind at approximately 400 km/s, a stream of charged particles, until it collides with the wind of the interstellar medium.

The collision occurs at the termination shock, which is roughly 80–100 AU from the Sun upwind of the interstellar medium and roughly 200 AU from the Sun downwind.

heliosphere.png

Here the wind slows dramatically, condenses and becomes more turbulent, forming a great oval structure known as the heliosheath. This structure is thought to look and behave very much like a comet's tail, extending outward for a further 40 AU on the upwind side but tailing many times that distance downwind; evidence from the Cassini and Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft has suggested that it is forced into a bubble shape by the constraining action of the interstellar magnetic field.

- Dethatched objects

90377 Sedna (with an average orbit of 520 AU) is a large, reddish object with a gigantic, highly elliptical orbit that takes it from about 76 AU at perihelion to 940 AU at aphelion and takes 11,400 years to complete. Mike Brown, who discovered the object in 2003, asserts that it cannot be part of the scattered disc or the Kuiper belt because its perihelion is too distant to have been affected by Neptune's migration. He and other astronomers consider it to be the first in an entirely new population, sometimes termed "distant detached objects" (DDOs), which also may include the object 2000 CR105, which has a perihelion of 45 AU, an aphelion of 415 AU, and an orbital period of 3,420 years. Brown terms this population the "inner Oort cloud" because it may have formed through a similar process, although it is far closer to the Sun. Sedna is very likely a dwarf planet, though its shape has yet to be determined. The second unequivocally detached object, with a perihelion farther than Sedna's at roughly 81 AU, is 2012 VP113, discovered in 2012. Its aphelion is only half that of Sedna's, at 400–500 AU.

- Oort Clouds

Oort-Cloud-578fa93.jpg

The Oort Cloud is the most distant region of our solar system. Even the nearest objects in the Oort Cloud are thought to be many times farther from the Sun than the outer reaches of the Kuiper Belt.
Unlike the orbits of the planets and the Kuiper Belt, which lie mostly in the same flat disk around the Sun, the Oort Cloud is believed to be a giant spherical shell surrounding the rest of the solar system. It is like a big, thick-walled bubble made of icy pieces of space debris the sizes of mountains and sometimes larger. The Oort Cloud might contain billions, or even trillions, of objects.

- Boundaries

Much of the Solar System is still unknown. The Sun's gravitational field is estimated to dominate the gravitational forces of surrounding stars out to about two light-years (125,000 AU). Lower estimates for the radius of the Oort cloud, by contrast, do not place it farther than 50,000 AU. Despite discoveries such as Sedna, the region between the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, an area tens of thousands of AU in radius, is still virtually unmapped. There are also ongoing studies of the region between Mercury and the Sun. Objects may yet be discovered in the Solar System's uncharted regions.