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Compact Cosmos

24 AURICOBJECTS to the heliopause and beyond Stretching out some 4.5 trillion miles,halfway to our closest stellar neighbor,Proxima Centuri,the conjectured Oort Cloud is a halo of icy debris remaining from our solar systems birth. Flung into highly eccentric orbits,these distant,dirty snowballs may pay a rare flying visit to the sun as long period comets. More regular visitors,short period comets fall in from the Kuiper Belt,a loose disk of ice and planetoids extending out some 5 billion miles,twice as far as Neptunes orbit. Farther in are the planets Pluto and gas giants Neptune,Uranus, Saturn,and Jupiter,with occasional moons,wayfarers like the Trojans and other asteroids,leftovers from the relentless churnings of gravity. Harmonically orbiting within are the rocky inner planets, Mars, Earth,Venus,and Mercury. From the center comes the solar wind, a rush of electrically charged particles blowing into space forming the heliosphere,a huge magnetized bubble of plasma around the Sun. Slowing to below the speed of sound at the termination shock about 10 billion miles out, the ions eventually stream into the galaxys realm at the heliopause some 14 billion miles away. The last ripples of the suns magnetic grip fade around 21 billion miles out, the bow shock of the solar system as it ploughs its way through the interstellar medium. 25 25
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