Voyager 2 Bids Adieu To The Heliosphere, Entering Interstellar Space

14 December, 2018, 07:02 | Author: Ann Santiago
  • 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

For the second time in history, a human-made object has reached the space between the stars.

Out beyond the heliopause, however, the Voyager craft can give NASA scientists a better idea of what it's like at the beginnings of interstellar space, and how the sun's particles and energy, or solar wind, interact with the constant flow of particles from deep, interstellar space. NASA says the Voyager 2 is a little over 11 billion miles from our own planet, though its mission operators are still able to communicate with the probe.

The two spacecraft, which look like a combination of a satellite dish and an old television set with rabbit ear antennas, were launched in 1977 on a mission to explore planets in our solar system.

Find out more in the video above. Nobody really knows. The two probes were created to cruise endlessly through space and, if they're ever found, they'll give extraterrestrials a small taste of Earth.

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Still, according to astronomers' predictions, their cosmic treks will bring the Voyagers close to several starry milestones and a dust cloud or three over the next hundred thousand or so years.

Voyager 2 is also entering interstellar space in a completely different region from its sister ship.

"We have an instrument which measures the wind coming from the sun, and we saw in fact that there was no longer any measurable solar wind", Edward Stone, the Voyager mission's project scientist, said in a video released Monday.

Although neither Voyager's instruments will last forever, the two spacecraft themselves will continue their plodding course across the solar system.

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But both Voyagers certainly are in a new, unexplored domain of space. The Voyager 2's arrival in interstellar space comes a handful of years after Voyager 1's own similar achievement.

Next, in the year 298,000 Voyager 2 will swing within about four light-years of Sirius, the brightest star in Earth's sky.

By that estimate, it will take another 300 years for the spacecraft to reach the inner Oort Cloud, and as many as 30,000 years to fly past it. "Your smartphone has 200,000 times more memory than what the Voyager spacecraft have", she added. One astronomical unit (or AU) is the average distance from the sun to Earth. Although NASA's Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft launched before the Voyagers paved the way on similar journeys beyond the Asteroid Belt to the outer solar system, eventually leading into interstellar space, they are no longer communicating with Earth.

Even though the Voyagers are traveling through interstellar space, they are still well within the solar system's gravitational sphere of influence. In August of this year, the mission turned 41, and "Voyager" continue its journey in outer space. "We're able to actually look at the galaxy through the clouded lens of our heliosphere and now take a step outside with Voyager and for the first time contemplate the vistas of our local galactic neighborhood".

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