NASA's Voyager 2 Probe Enters Interstellar Space

11 December, 2018, 05:12 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • NASA Voyager 2 enters interstellar space, could become 'the only trace of human civilization'

The discovery, announced at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union here, comes six years after Voyager 1 also crossed the heliopause into interstellar space. The news conference will stream live on the agency's website. Sadly the spacecraft won't still be sending us data at that point.

Voyager crafts 1 and 2 are identical - and now both are in interstellar space.

Voyager 2 has already logged more than 18.5 billion miles on its interstellar trip going 34,191mph. By comparison, light traveling from the Sun takes about eight minutes to reach Earth.

A NASA illustration depicts the positions of both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, now outside the heliosphere. 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. As NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains, engineers have to compare the readings of various spacecraft instruments that detect particles generated by the Sun as well as cosmic rays.

It is estimated that for Voyager 2 to leave our solar system it would take around 30,000 years. "We're in a different place - one is in the northern hemisphere and the other is in the southern hemisphere - and it's a different time in the solar cycle".

The Voyager spacecraft, launched as five-year missions, have now been operating for over four decades and continue to transmit valuable data back to Earth, and have even been remotely upgraded along the way.

Together, the two Voyagers provide a detailed glimpse of how our heliosphere interacts with the constant interstellar wind flowing from beyond. The PLS measurement indicated to Nasa scientists that the probe has certainly left the heliopause.

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The Voyager 2, launched in 1977, is renowned as the only probe ever to study Neptune and Uranus during planetary flybys. For starters, it makes sense to say that the Solar System extends to the edge of the influence of the Sun. Its boundary is the outermost edge of the Oort Cloud, a group of small objects influenced by the gravity of our sun.

Both Voyagers are heading toward the Oort Cloud, a huge haze of comets swirling at a distance of between 1,000 and 100,000 AU from the sun. It covers 290 million miles per year. "This is what we've all been waiting for". "Now we're looking forward to what we'll be able to learn from having both probes outside the heliopause". In fact, something like this happened when Voyager 2 crossed the termination shock in 2007. And it's an incredible feat for a spacecraft created to last five years.

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

Besides passing the interstellar milestone, Voyager 2 is also NASA's longest running mission.

Voyager 2 has not made it out of our solar system, rather it has left the heliosphere according to data from the probe. The DSN consists of three clusters of antennas in Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia.

"I often get asked, 'Is this it for Voyager?'" said Nicky Fox, director of the heliophysics division at NASA Headquarters. JPL built and operates the twin Voyager spacecraft.

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