The discovery not only gives us a glimpse of what exists in the so-called interstellar medium—the matter between stars—but also offers clues to the anatomy of our local galactic neighborhood.
Orbiting Earth some 200,000 miles (322,000 kilometers) away, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft was able to snag samples of hydrogen, oxygen, and neon that came from interstellar space.
“It’s exciting to be able to have these first observations of alien matter—stuff that didn’t come from our sun or the planets, but came from the outside of our solar system, from other parts of the galaxy,” David McComas, team leader for the IBEX program, said during a NASA news conference Tuesday.
“We think these are really important measurements, because these elements are the fundamental building blocks of stars, planets, and people.”
What you see in this amazing video really is just a coincidence. A comet smashed into one side of the Sun just as a massive explosion ignited on the other side. Two entirely unrelated events…but they sure look awesome together.