This undated artist rendering provided by NASA shows NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft. NASA announced Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 that new findings from IBEX reveal the space just outside the solar system looks different than within the solar system. – AP Photo/NASA

LOS ANGELES: A glimpse beyond our solar system reveals the neighborhood just outside the sun’s influence is different and stranger than expected, scientists reported Tuesday.

One oddity is the amount of oxygen. There are more oxygen atoms floating freely in the solar system than in the immediate interstellar space, or the vast region between stars. Scientists were unsure why, but they said it’s possible some of the life-supporting element could be hidden in dust or ice.

‘‘We discovered this big puzzle _ that the matter just outside of our solar system doesn’t look like the material inside,’’ said David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

The discovery came from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft, which launched in 2008 to study the chaotic boundary where the solar wind from the sun clashes with cold gases from interstellar space.

Circling 200,000 miles (321,854 kilometers) above Earth, the Ibex spacecraft spots particles streaming into the solar system. A protective bubble surrounding the sun and planets prevents dangerous cosmic radiation from seeping through, but neutral particles can pass freely, allowing Ibex to map their distribution.

The presence of less oxygen outside the solar system should not have any bearing on the search for Earth-like planets, scientists involved in the exoplanet hunt said.

There’s plenty of oxygen in all the stars in the galaxy and in the material out of which stars and planets form, Geoff Marcy of University of California, Berkeley said in an email.

While Ibex probes the edge of the solar system from Earth orbit, NASA’s long-running, nuclear-powered twin Voyager spacecraft are at the fringes. Launched in 1977, the spacecraft have been exploring the solar system boundary since 2004.

Scientists have said it’ll be months or years before Voyager 1 exits the solar system and becomes the first manmade probe to cross into interstellar space.

Opinion

Editorial

Miftah’s misery
Updated 06 Jul, 2022

Miftah’s misery

It cannot be easy to be finance minister in times like these, with friend and foe alike gunning for you over difficult decisions.
Phone tapping
06 Jul, 2022

Phone tapping

IT is the season of audio leaks. No sooner does one ‘incriminating’ clip lose its shock value than another...
Transgender job quota
06 Jul, 2022

Transgender job quota

IN a society where transgender persons often face violence and abuse, the Sindh Assembly’s decision to reserve a...
Warming ties
05 Jul, 2022

Warming ties

BILATERAL ties with the US are clearly on the mend after an extensive rough patch under the PTI government. While ...
LNG emergency
Updated 05 Jul, 2022

LNG emergency

The problem is that Pakistan does not have sufficient cash at the moment to buy even a single LNG cargo at present prices.
The invisible half
05 Jul, 2022

The invisible half

WHAT better illustrates the Afghan Taliban’s misogynistic and mediaeval worldview than the fact that not a single...