Published: Tue, December 11, 2018
Sci-tech | By Javier West

NASA’s Voyager 2, Launched in 1977, Reaches Interstellar Space

NASA’s Voyager 2, Launched in 1977, Reaches Interstellar Space

NASA said Monday that Voyager 2 exited the region of the sun's influence last month. Today, NASA reported that the 41-year-old spacecraft has reached interstellar shores, more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) away, to begin a new phase of its mission between the stars.

Voyager 2's older twin, the Voyager 1 spacecraft, crossed the boundary in August 2012. For starters, it makes sense to say that the Solar System extends to the edge of the influence of the Sun. It would take another 30,000 years for them to get through the Oort Cloud, a collection of small, icy objects that orbits the sun beyond the planets, officials said.

NASA was able to determine that Voyager 2 left the heliosphere thanks to the onboard Plasma Science Experiment (PLS), which NASA said stopped working on the Voyager 1 in 1980. "One kind of feels like a lucky fluke", says Justin Kasper, a scientist involved in the Voyager missions from the University of MI in Ann Arbor.

And the spacecraft is still the only human-made object to have flown by Neptune. Voyager 2 is now NASA's longest running mission, reports Xinhua.

The two spacecraft were created to last five years and study Jupiter and Saturn.

While both Voyagers are further than any scientist ever expected for them to reach, they are still in our solar system and will continue to be for some time. Solar wind, the charged plasma particles that come out from the sun, generates this bubble. Mission control can communicate with the probe, but information traveling at the speed of light takes around 16.5 hours to travel from the spacecraft to Earth.

"We are fortunate enough to have 2 very courageous sentinels that have left our heliosphere and are out truly looking at the other side of the boundary", Fox added. The science they continue to send back to Earth gives us a taste of the interstellar ocean and will prepare us if we, too, take that plunge to travel to other stars, and become a star-hopping species in the distant future. For reference, an astronomical unit is the equivalent to the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is roughly 93 million miles.

"I think we're all happy and relieved that the Voyager probes have both operated long enough to make it past this milestone", Voyager Project Manager Suzanne Dodd said in a statement.

Of course, that's a rather long time - particularly when one considers that the Voyager probes are already massive overachievers when it comes to longevity. "This is what we've all been waiting for".

Both probes still carry Golden Records containing pictures, messages and sounds from Earth because the spacecraft could outlast human civilization by billions of years.

"Now we are looking forward to what we will be able to learn from having both probes outside the heliosphere".

Like this: