Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

NASA's Voyager 2 Probe Enters Interstellar Space

This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes outside of the heliosphere a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto NASA Voyager 2 enters interstellar space, could become 'the only trace of human civilization'
Andrew Wong | 13 December, 2018, 22:48

Until November 5 this year the PLS aboard the Voyager 2 was sending readings with high solar wind levels.

For Voyager 2, now more than 11 billion miles from Earth, that change occurred November 5.

Scientists define the Solar System in different ways, so Prof Stone has always been very careful not to use the exact phrase "leave the Solar System" in relation to his spacecraft.

It is now more than 11 billion miles from Earth, though NASA is still able to communicate with the craft.

The twin Voyagers launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1977, and zipped by Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

But once the Voyagers' main missions ended, the nuclear-powered robots kept going.

Right now, she estimates that the twin probes can operate for at least five, perhaps 10 more years with this gradual decay of science data coming back. They were to forge their way through our Sun's domain, and become the first human-made objects to break through into interstellar space.

Back in 2012, Voyager 1 boldly went where no spacecraft has ever gone before-it crossed out of the influence of our Sun and into the great expanse between star systems.

However, for all practical purposes, both spacecraft are in interstellar space or the space between stars.

It's important to note that there's a number of ways you can measure the end of the Solar System.

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"We are the only facilities in the world that can link communications with the Voyager 2 spacecraft". By comparison, light traveling from the Sun takes about eight minutes to reach Earth.

Voyager 2 will continue to study the cosmos from the other side of the heliopause, as Voyager 1 has been doing. "That means we must be in the interstellar medium". "Now we're looking forward to what we'll be able to learn from having both probes outside the heliopause". For reference, an astronomical unit is the equivalent to the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is roughly 93 million miles. Originally some scientists speculated our star's winds would peter out in the vicinity of Mars, but the Voyager spacecraft have gradually pushed this boundary far beyond.

The vast region in which the solar wind has some influence is called the heliosphere. Their observations complement data from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), a mission that is remotely sensing that boundary.

They have now been operating for 41 years making it NASA's longest-running mission.

It's not easy to know whether a robot has punctured the heliopause.

As one of our most-distant emissaries, Voyager 2 carries a Golden Record, a gold-plated phonograph record containing images and sounds of life and culture on Earth. "That same day the magnetic field increased, and that's also the point at which the plasma [instrument] quit measuring the solar wind".

"Now we are fortunate enough to have two very fearless sentinels that have left our heliosphere and are out truly looking at the other side of the boundary in our interstellar medium", Fox said. In fact, something like this happened when Voyager 2 crossed the termination shock in 2007.

Q. What will Voyager 2 see next?

Most scientists think the Oort cloud is the source of comets that take thousands of years to complete one orbit around the sun. That is a zone between 0.16 and 1.6 light-years away from the sun.

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