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Looking to Exit the Solar System? Here’s a Path to Follow

The far reaches of our Solar System, beyond the heliosphere and its heliopause, remain largely unexplored territory. Only Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have ventured to the heliopause, leaving scientists with many unanswered questions about this critical region. The heliopause marks the boundary where the interstellar medium halts the solar wind, marking a transition point from the protective shield of the heliosphere to the vast expanse of space beyond.

Researchers are now looking to shed light on this mysterious region by developing a mission concept to explore it further. Understanding the heliosphere is crucial for comprehending how our Solar System interacts with the broader galactic environment. The heliosphere acts as a barrier against harmful cosmic radiation from sources like supernovae, shielding our astronauts and life on Earth. However, without a comprehensive understanding of its shape and extent, we are limited in our ability to study its protective mechanisms.

A recent study published in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences titled “Complementary Interstellar Detections from the Heliotail” proposes the design of a probe that could travel beyond the heliopause to provide crucial insights into the heliosphere. Led by Sarah Spitzer, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan, the study emphasizes the need for a dedicated mission to explore this region.

One of the key challenges in studying the heliosphere is the lack of data on its shape and interactions with the local interstellar medium (LISM). The heliosphere’s form is influenced by the interplay between the Sun’s solar wind and the LISM, which consists of plasma, dust, and neutral particles. Understanding these dynamics requires venturing outside the heliosphere, a feat that has only been achieved by the Voyager probes so far.

Unlike the Voyager missions, which were primarily focused on planetary exploration, a future interstellar probe mission would aim to delve deep into the heliosphere to unravel its mysteries. By launching a purpose-built spacecraft capable of traveling beyond the heliopause, scientists hope to gain unprecedented insights into the shape and structure of our heliosphere.

The proposed Interstellar Probe mission envisions a long-duration journey into the interstellar medium, providing a vantage point from outside our Solar System. This ambitious mission, slated for a potential launch in 2036, could travel at a remarkable speed of 7 astronomical units (AU) per year, offering a unique perspective on our cosmic neighborhood.

Recent research suggests that the Solar System is on a trajectory that will eventually lead it out of the Local Interstellar Cloud, possibly encountering multiple interstellar clouds with distinct properties along the way. By sending probes with different trajectories beyond the heliopause, scientists aim to paint a comprehensive picture of the heliosphere and its interactions with the surrounding interstellar environment.

As technology advances and new mission concepts take shape, the prospect of leaving the Solar System for the first time becomes increasingly feasible. By venturing beyond the heliopause, researchers hope to unlock the secrets of our cosmic neighborhood and shed light on the protective mechanisms that safeguard life on Earth from the harsh realities of interstellar space.

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Forest Lawn Drive now free of RV encampment and parking

Nancy Sexton was thrilled when city crews cleared out more than 50 RVs in December that had been parked near her business for months, blocking parking spots and leaving behind trash and waste on Forest Lawn Drive.

Then she realized the long stretch of road near Barham Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills was suddenly off limits for not just parked RVs, but all parked vehicles. Much of the curb was painted red. No parking signs lined the sidewalk.

“It’s a dumb decision,” said Sexton, who owns the Muse Rooms, which offers leased office spaces. “It’s frustrating.”

The more than 50 RVs, which had been stationed along the winding road for months as a semi-permanent living encampment, were removed in December as part of the city’s operation known as Inside Safe. One goal of the program, which is part of Mayor Karen Bass’ initiative to bring people living on the streets indoors, is to end the cycle of homeless encampments being cleared by the city only to return a few weeks later.

But days after the RVs were removed, Sexton said, the curb was painted red and parking was limited. The new red zone is about a quarter mile long, running between Warner Bros. Studios’ Gate 9 entrance and North Coyote Canyon Drive.

The areas that do allow parking, meanwhile, have two-hour limits.

City officials also said the decision to restrict parking was done out of fire safety concerns, not to keep the RVs from resettling along the road. Sexton has her doubts.

The lack of parking along the street suddenly imposed a new, unexpected expense on her clients, prompting some to look elsewhere. The red curb has also become an irritation for some students and workers at the New York Film Academy and businesses nearby.

A road with RVs lining its right side.

RVs are parked on Forest Lawn Drive on June 27, 2023, in Burbank.

(David McNew/Getty Images)

Since the no-parking signs went up, Sexton said, she’s lost two regular members and two potential clients. All of them had aired concern about the lack of street parking and the added expense of paying $12 a day at the parking structure on site.

The parking fee, Sexton said, doubled the monthly costs for some members.

“I didn’t know how much of a problem it was going to be until there were people saying, ‘I can’t pay $12 a day,’ ” she said. “I’m really feeling it now.”

The situation highlights some of the unintended results as city officials look to address homelessness and the concerns of businesses and homeowners affected by makeshift encampments, whether they involve tents, vehicles, or both.

RV encampments have sprung up across the city amid a housing crisis that has left many people priced out of permanent homes. Local officials have looked for ways to address the issue, including new regulations that have targeted overnight RV parking.

According to the mayor’s office, the Inside Safe program has addressed 39 encampments so far, moving more than 2,400 people into interim housing and an additional 440 into permanent housing since December 2022.

Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said the RVs that were removed from Forest Lawn Drive were themselves causing parking issues in the area, as well as raising other significant safety and public health concerns.

Members of the surrounding community have said removing the RVs “has helped on all three fronts,” Seidl said in a statement. “This operation has saved lives.

Stella Stahl, spokesperson for Councilmember Nithya Raman, said the city has helped many of the RV residents along Forest Lawn Drive to find housing indoors.

In a statement, Stahl credited the decision to limit parking to a request by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which called the area a “high fire severity zone.” A 2019 brush fire in the area burned more than 30 acres and threatened homes and businesses.

In a Sept. 19, 2023, letter, LAFD Assistant Chief Dean Zipperman asked the city Department of Transportation to install “Tow Away No Stopping Any Time” restrictions on the road due to the stopped and parked vehicles there.

To avoid the hassle of looking for parking, cinematography students Sanchin Vinay, Yifan Xiang, and Davide Picci carpool to their classes at the New York Film Academy, which shares a building with the Muse Rooms. Eliminating the RVs has opened some spots to them, although Picci said they’d been able to find spaces on the street before — “really far down.”

A couch on a sidewalk near an RV.

The curb along Forest Lawn Drive, where someone has left a couch.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Sometimes they pay the $12 for the daily parking to avoid being late for class. Carpooling helps cushion the cost.

Leslie Bates, a film production instructor, said she heard of students and faculty members having “volatile” interactions with the RV residents.

Now that the RVs have

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