The Solar System is embedded in a flow of low-density, warm, and partially ionized interstellar material that has been sampled directly by in situ measurements of interstellar neutral gas and dust in the heliosphere. Absorption line data reveal that this interstellar gas is part of a larger cluster of local interstellar clouds, which is spatially and kinematically divided into additional small-scale structures indicating ongoing interactions. An origin for the clouds that is related to star formation in the Scorpius-Centaurus OB association is suggested by the dynamic characteristics of the flow. Variable depletions observed within the local interstellar medium (ISM) suggest an inhomogeneous Galactic environment, with shocks that destroy grains in some regions. Although photoionization models of the circumheliospheric ISM do an excellent job of reproducing the observed properties of the surrounding ISM, the unknown characteristics of the very low-density hot plasma filling the Local Bubble introduces uncertainty about the source of ionization and nature of cloud boundaries. Recent observations of small cold clouds provide new insight into the processes affecting the local ISM. A fuller understanding of the local ISM can provide insights into the past and future Galactic environment of the Sun, and deeper knowledge of the astrospheres of nearby stars.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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