WASHINGTON - Gigantic interplanetary shockwaves reverberate across our Solar System, originating from the Sun and the bursts of charged particles or solar winds escaping it. But measuring such a shock in detail takes some very finely tuned instruments – and scientists just managed it for the first time. These shocks are made up of particles transferring energy through electromagnetic waves, rather than bouncing directly into each other – what’s known as a collisionless shock. Understanding how these shocks happen in Earth’s vicinity could prove useful on a greater scale, since these types of shockwaves are also spewed forth by things like supernovae and even black holes. The solar winds that give rise to interplanetary shocks come in two types: fast and slow (as you can probably guess, one of the key differences between them is their speed of travel). As a fast stream overtakes a slow stream, a wave is created, causing ripples that spread out across the Solar System. It’s thanks to NASA’s Magnetospheric MultiScale satellites (MMS) that we’ve now been able to catch a shockwave as it propagates through space – because the four satellites that make up the MMS were only around 20 kilometres or 12 miles apart at the time, they were close enough to detect interplanetary shockwaves as they flashed by in just half a second. “The [MMS] spacecraft obtained unprecedented high‐time resolution multipoint particle and field measurements of an interplanetary shock event,” the researchers write in their paper.