Spacecraft Voyager 1 has officially entered interstellar space, although exactly when it left the heliosphere is still up for debate.m“This is the first manmade object that has left our home—our bubble—ever,” says Merav Opher, associate professor of astronomy at Boston University and a guest investigator on NASA’s Voyager team. “Voyager is like our scout, telling us what lies beyond our home.”
NASA’s recent announcement, based on a new study published in the journal Science, follows a debate among some astronomers as to when or even whether the transit beyond the heliopause had occurred. The Science study places the transit as completed on August 25, 2012.
One AU is the distance from the sun to the Earth, which is about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers. Neptune, the most distant planet from the sun, is about 30 AU. NASA’s Voyager 1, humankind’s most distant spacecraft, is around 125 AU. It will take about 300 years for Voyager 1 to reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud and possibly about 30,000 years to fly beyond it.
different from the solar magnetic field inside.
One of features of voyager is this golden disk, with a map of how to get to earth, pictures of mankind, and sounds of humanity. Sort of like throwing a note in a bottle out to sea- I wonder if anyone will ever read it, and if we’ll still be around.
Here is the modern ‘pale blue dot’ as taken by the Cassini spacecraft recently.
Pretty impressive that we can even make out the Earth in an image like this. The original ‘pale blue dot’ was part of an even more impressive mission, Voyager.
Voyager is now over 16 light hours from Earth – that is, it takes 16 hours for the signal from voyager to make it back to Earth. Last week one of the instrument team members came into my office and showed me data that had just arrived in. This data showed wild variations in the magnetic field, systematic of voyager leaving the Sun’s influence and moving into the no man’s land of space. It was amazing to see this first hand. The full story is on NPR, including clips from the famous golden record. Have a listen. 10 years from now there will be insufficient power to keep transmitting the signal back to Earth, but voyager will keep going. Forever a testament to Man’s ingenuity.
It has to end somewhere. Scientifically the solar system has more than one end point. More correctly the sun has more than one end point. The sun gives off a constant steam of particles. At earth we are inside this stream, so even here we are still in the sun. The latest new from the voyager mission is has now reached a new boundary, 11 billion miles from earth. Eventually the stream of particles from the sun hits interstellar space and slows down. Other changes, in the magnetic field strength and direction should also happen. Voyager will keep going and going, so it will be become the first man made object to leave the Sun. The big question is, with only a few dozen years of battery left, will we know when it does so?