NASA Voyager 2 probe enters interstellar space 11 billion miles from Earth

13 December, 2018, 22:49 | Author: Ann Santiago
  • NASA Voyager 2 enters interstellar space, could become 'the only trace of human civilization'

While its twin craft beat it to this boundary, the U.S. space agency says that Voyager 2 has a working instrument aboard that will provide "first-of-its-kind observations of the nature of this gateway into interstellar space". Both were launched within weeks of each other in 1977 on missions to fly by Jupiter and Saturn. The Sun's heliosphere, or the region where particles and magnetic fields are altered by the Sun's influence, protects the crafts from these strikes. NASA said that since the spacecraft could last billions of years, they may one day "be the only traces of human civilization". The PSE instrument stopped working for Voyager 1 in 1980, however, so Voyager 2 has been able to gather more in-depth information than its twin during this historic moment.

So to be sure that Voyager 2 left the heliosphere, NASA leaned on data from five instruments. "Now we're looking forward to what we'll be able to learn from having both probes outside the heliopause". Whereas the latter traveled out of the heliosphere's northern hemisphere (the planet-filled ecliptic plane is the equator), Voyager 2 is heading out of the southern hemisphere. Called the heliopause, this boundary is where the tenuous, hot solar wind meets the cold, dense interstellar medium. The Voyager 2's arrival in interstellar space comes a handful of years after Voyager 1's own similar achievement.

Both Voyagers were meant to explore the solar system for five years, but 41 years later, are still alive and sending messages back to Earth.

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"We are the only facilities in the world that can link communications with the Voyager 2 spacecraft". The PLS measurements of this "solar wind" plummeted to zero on November 5-the official date of Voyager 2's departure. Its cover includes information on how to play and decode the disc, and bears directions to Earth's sun based on the locations and frequencies of 14 pulsars. Now, 41 years later, the pair of robotic space explorers have left the planets far behind and represent humanity's first baby steps into the mysterious interstellar expanse. The twin spacecrafts were launched way back in 1977, and now NASA has revealed that Voyager-2 just achieved a milestone that only its sister ship has accomplished before it: entering interstellar space. The edge of the solar system is generally acknowledged to be located beyond the Oort Cloud.

According to Nasa, the Voyagers are still technically in our solar system. And it will take about 30,000 years for the two spacecraft to come out the far side of the Oort cloud and definitively leave the solar system. "So we have to make a lot of trades, particularly with Voyager 2, between power and thermal", she said.

NASA's Voyager 2 is probing the space between the stars. "When Voyager was launched, we didn't know how large the bubble was, we didn't know how long it would take to get there, and we didn't know if the spacecraft could last long enough to get there".

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