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The Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics

Back to 25 Years of Voyager Main Page Bringing It All Together: Coupling Complexity
Introduction

Although we have discussed individual aspects of the heliosphere on large and small scales, the extended and far-ranging mission of Voyager has emphasized the interconnectedness of the heliosphere on all scales and across vastly disparate regions.

Indeed, space scientists are now realizing that to understand the interplanetary medium and its interaction with the planets and the interstellar medium requires that large-scale and small-scale phenomena be coupled, that physically distinct plasma and neutral atom populations can co-exist locally and be non-equilibrated, and that physically distinct regions are closely coupled and often highly time-dependent. Such "coupling complexity" is at the heart of modern space physics and represents its greatest challenge (a-c).

a. Image
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b. Image
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c. Image
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Left: Image showing magnetic field lines shredding and diffusing in the presence of turbulence. Right: Top panel: The temperature distribution of interplanetary and interstellar plasma, showing the termination shock, heliopause, and bow shock. Bottom panel: The density distribution of hydrogen, showing the hydrogen wall.

To illustrate coupling complexity, we consider an example that draws directly on the processes already described.

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