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NASA Analyzes Material Beyond Our Solar System

Representatives from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt discovered that the composition of atoms found in interstellar space is different from the atoms in our solar system. For every 20 neon atoms in the galactic wind, there are 74 oxygen atoms. However, in our solar system, for every 20 neon atoms there are 111 oxygen atoms. "That translates to more oxygen in any given slice of the solar system than in the local interstellar space," NASA said.

The assumption now is that our solar system grew in a more oxygen-rich part of the galaxy than where we currently reside within the galaxy. Another interpretation is that a considerable amount of oxygen is trapped in interstellar dust grains or ices and cannot move in space." Either way, this affects scientific models of how our solar system - and life - formed," said Eric Christian, mission scientist for IBEX.

The results were collected from neutral atoms that are able to pass from the space outside our solar system to the inside, the heliosheath.

Previously, the Ulysses spacecraft has provided information about the galactic wind, but the more intriguing story is written by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which was launched in 1977 and has been operating for more than 34 years. It is currently more than  11 billion miles from Earth, continues to cover more than 320 million miles per year and communicates via NASA via the Deep Space Network, which delivers messages to and from the craft in about 14 hours - one way. Voyager 1 is expected to remain operational until at least 2025 and leave our solar system within a few years. Originally, Voyager 1 as well as the sister craft Voyager 2, were scheduled to remain in service until 1982.

Researchers expect a great deal of information provided by Voyager 1 once it leaves the solar system. The craft does not target a specific star, but will be will be within 1.6 light years of the star AC+79 3888 in the Ophiuchus constellation in about 40,000 years, NASA said. If it is found by an intelligent life form, its age and origin could be calculated, as both Voyager spacecraft carry golden records as time capsules that contain a pure sample of Uranium-238 with a half life of 4.51 billion years on their covers. The records also include natural sounds, music from different eras and 115 images from Earth.