NASA's Voyager 2 probe enters interstellar space after 41-year journey

NASA's Voyager 2 probe enters interstellar space after 41-year journey

NASA's Voyager 2 probe enters interstellar space after 41-year journey

The first device in history that left the heliosphere, was the "Voyager-1".

- said the head of the research program, Voyager ed stone.

Though it launched a couple weeks before its twin Voyager 1, its trajectory took it on a longer route through the solar system. One tool was the plasma science experiment, which detects solar wind particles. One controversy about the heliosphere is whether there is a bow shock in the interstellar medium upstream of the heliopause that heats, compresses, and slows the plasma. Our sun's gravitational influence reaches far beyond the heliopause, and countless billions of frozen objects occupy a region stretching as far away as 100,000 AU from the sun.

Voyager 2 will continue sending back scientific measurements until about 2025, before travelling onwards on a journey which will only stop if it smashes into something - or is captured by an alien intelligence. Voyager 1 departed Earth on 5 September 1977, a few days after its sister spacecraft, Voyager 2.

The Voyagers launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1977.

It's official! The Voyager 2 probe has entered interstellar space, making it just the second human-made object to do so.

That doesn't mean it left the solar system, though. 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 sun fuses hydrogen deep inside its core, ultimately creating the giant ball of glowing gases we see in the sky (and can thank for the existence of life on Earth).

Now, the probe is more than 11 billion miles from Earth in interstellar space. This led scientists to conclude that the probe has left the Solar System. "You can think of the galactic magnetic field as an array of bungee cords", says Eric Christian from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, a scientist on the Voyager team.

Another possible explanation is the sun's fluctuating activity, measured via outbursts such as solar flares and powerful explosions called coronal mass ejections. We also found that the actual boundary, as defined by the plasma, occurs further in than previously thought based on energetic particle data. "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". Keep up the good work, little space probe (s)! "It's all going to depend on how long the solar minimum lasts".

Q. Why is Voyager 2 crossing the heliopause important? Originally built to last five years they both lasted almost eight times that and during those four decades transformed human understanding of the solar system. Both are outside of the heliosphere.

Another clue came from the instruments on Voyager 2 that measure hits from energetic cosmic rays. By comparison, light traveling from the Sun takes about eight minutes to reach Earth. "We do have hard decisions ahead", Dodd said. And it's an incredible feat for a spacecraft created to last five years.

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