The heliosphere is a bubble-like region of space that contains the sun and all the planets of the solar system from Mercury to Neptune. In 1977, the Americans launched two space probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, which are now exploring the boundaries of the heliosphere. The twin probes found the edge of the bubble, but their findings left many questions unanswered. Therefore, NASA is planning a more ambitious mission - to launch an interstellar probe in the 2030s, which should cover a distance of 148 billion kilometers. This is 1000 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. According to scientists, this will help to see "what our home in the solar system looks like". The project involves about 500 researchers, engineers and volunteers from around the world, according to the Daily Mail.
Through the mission, scientists hope to understand how the solar plasma interacts with interstellar gas to create the heliosphere. In addition, the probe should show what the heliosphere itself looks like - recent evidence suggests that it resembles a croissant - and what lies beyond. During the mission, it is planned to take pictures of the heliosphere and, possibly, observe the extragalactic background radiation from the early formation of our galaxy - it is impossible to see all this from Earth.
The heliosphere is important because it protects our solar system from high-energy galactic cosmic rays. The sun travels through the galaxy, passing through various regions of interstellar space. Now it is in the so-called Local Interstellar Cloud, but, according to some reports, it is already approaching its edge. After that, our star will enter another region of interstellar space, about which we know nothing. This could cause the heliosphere to change in size or emit a different amount of galactic cosmic rays that affect the level of background radiation on Earth.
The mission could take about 15 years - a very short timeframe compared to Voyagers, which took 35 years to reach the edge of the heliosphere.