, Volume 72, Issue 3-4, pp 499-592

Characteristics of nearby interstellar matter

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Abstract

There is a warm tenuous partially ionized cloud (T∼104 K,n(HI)∼0.1 cm−3,n(Hii∼ 0.22–0.44 cm−3) surrounding the solar system which regulates the environment of the solar system, determines the structure of the heliopause region, and feeds neutral interstellar gas into the inner solar system. The velocity (V∼−20 km s−1 froml∼335°,b∼0° in the local standard of rest) and enhanced Caii and Feii abundances of this cloud suggest an origin as evaporated gas from cloud surfaces in the Scorpius-Centaurus Association. Although the soft X-ray emission attributed to the ‘Local Bubble’ is enigmatic, optical and ultraviolet data are consistent with bubble formation caused by star formation epochs in the Scorpius-Centaurus Association as regulated by the nearby spiral arm configuration. The cloud surrounding the solar system (the ‘local fluff’) appears to be the leading region of an expanding interstellar structure (the ‘squall line’) which contains a magnetic field causing polarization of the light of nearby stars, and also absorption features in nearby upwind stars. The velocity vectors of the solar system and local fluff are perpendicular in the local standard of rest. Combining this information with the low column densities seen towards Sirius in the anti-apex direction, and the assumption that the cloud velocity vector is parallel to the surface normal, suggests that the Sun entered the local fluff within the historical past (less than 10 000 years ago) and is skimming the surface of the cloud. Comparison of magnesium absorption lines towards Sirius and anomalous cosmic-ray data suggest the local fluff is in ionization equilibrium.