NASA Says We All Live Inside a Giant 'Deflated Croissant', Yes Really

In an article published on August 5, NASA researchers explained new findings from a study published in Nature Astronomy that predicted what the shape of our solar system was, and it was compared to a "deflated croissant."

The study from Nature Astronomy proposed the possible shape of the universe, using data from NASA. "There was a consensus, since the pioneering work of Baranov and Malama, that the heliosphere shape is comet-like. More recently, this standard shape has been challenged by the realization that the solar magnetic field plays a crucial role in funnelling the heliosheath (HS) solar wind flow into two jet-like structures. Cassini's observations of energetic neutral atoms further suggest that the heliosphere has no tail," the study said.

On NASA's website, the article explained that previous research by Dr. Merav Opher, a professor of astronomy at Boston University, showed the way magnetic fields and jets create the shape similar to a breakfast pastry. "Considering the solar wind's components separately, combined with Opher's earlier work using the solar magnetic field as a dominant force in shaping the heliosphere, created a deflated croissant shape, with two jets curling away from the central bulbous part of the heliosphere, and notably lacking the long tail predicted by many scientists," the NASA article said.

Opher likened the shape of the solar system to a cocoon around the sun. "Every star has a cocoon around them. Most stars that have winds, and they move. They have cocoons," she told Newsweek. "My area of research studies how stars-what the nature and the shape of the characteristics of those stars are."

Opher explained the evolution from the comet shape to the croissant shape findings that began five years ago. "Cocoon shape means that you have a head like a boat going through a river. A head and a long tail trailing behind, like a comet. What my studies have shown, already in 2015-we started that-and then there are other observations that are corroborating that is that the sun's cocoon doesn't have a tail that extends for thousands and thousands of what we call astronomical units-a distance as to the sun. It's a short tail," she said. "We had put forward this funny name in 2015, a croissant shape, because it's not a bubble, but it has this two horns that extend back that look like horns of a croissant."

She also explained that in the five years since the croissant shape was suggested, new findings show that it's more spherical, causing it to appear "deflated."

"What this new study shows is that the shape-this cocoon-is spherical in the front. It's like a croissant. It's still the main conclusion that [it] is croissant-like, and now they'll call it a 'deflated croissant,' because it's much more spherical and much shorter in all directions," she said. "Why I'm emphasizing the shape of the deflated croissant is because the fact that our bubble is smaller and deflated, it again speaks to the nature of this bubble. We're discovering that our understanding of how this bubble works is very different than what we understood before."

The study provides a means to study jets, which are "incredible, powerful phenomena that you look in the sky and come out of black holes, come out of galaxies are very powerful, collimated flow, most of them are relativistic." Opher said that, even though we have different jets, it's still an opportunity to study them.

"In our backyard, our sun has a very similar case. We have jets. Those horns of the croissant are jets, but they are a weak, relativistic brother or sister of this powerful jets. The analog of these very powerful relativistic jets that we see everywhere in the universe, but now we found that stars can have jets as well, coming from the winds. These horns of the croissant are very exciting, because we can study stellar jets in our backyard, and we have measurements we can study up and close a phenomena that is extremely universal. Even though it's non-relativistic and slow, it's in our backyard. So you can really understand differently than if you're looking from a telescope dish that you can only see these things far away," she said.

Opher also said that understanding the nature of our cocoon and how it keeps out certain energetic particles is important for understanding how life develops. "We have a habitable cocoon, and we know that this cocoon shields 75 percent [of energetic particles]. How much of this was crucial for development of life? We're still trying to figure this out, but clearly, we need to understand how other bubbles are shaped, the nature of them, in order to understand the development of life.

Comet NEOWISE or C/2020 F3 is seen in the sky in Jean, Nevada on July 15, 2020. - The comet was discovered March 27, 2020, by NEOWISE, the Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which is a space telescope launched by NASA in 2009. While it was earlier thought that our solar system was a shape similar to a comet, research finds that the shape is more similar to a "deflated croissant." Getty/David Becker/AFP