Voyager 1 May Soon Cross into Inter-stellar Space

Written by buzz. Posted in Science

Voyager 1 May Soon Cross into Inter-stellar Space

by Jacqueline Dennison

Voyager 1 Space Probe

     Once a pioneer of our solar

system’s giant planets, NASA’s

Voyager 1 may soon be the first

man-made space probe to

venture beyond our Solar System

and into inter-stellar space.

     Recent data suggests that

Voyager has entered the outer

edge of the solar system, an area

teeming with charged particles

believed to have originated from

our neighboring stars. Readings of

particles from our own star have

slowed, another indication that Voyager is close to breaking the solar boundary.

Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at California Institute of Technology, has

given an optimistic view of Voyager’s journey. “The laws of physics say that

someday Voyager will become the first human-made object to enter interstellar

space, but we still do not know exactly when that someday will be,” said Stone.

“The latest data indicate that we are clearly in a new region where things are

changing more quickly. It is very exciting. We are approaching the solar system’s

frontier.”

Voyager 1 is travelling through the heliosheath, the turbulent outer edge of the

solar system where charged particles from the Sun are very active.

“From January 2009 to January 2012, there had been a gradual increase of

about 25 percent in the amount of galactic cosmic rays Voyager was encountering,”

said Stone. “More recently, we have seen very rapid escalation in that part of the

energy spectrum. Beginning on May 7, the cosmic ray hits have increased five percent

in a week and nine percent in a month.”

Since its launch in 1977, Voyager 1 has traveled to over 18 billion kilometers

from the Sun. Its sister probe, Voyager 2, is about 15 kilometers from the sun.

Between them, the two probes have visited the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus

and Neptune, as well as 48 moons. Both Voyagers each carry a gold-plated copper

record that plays various sounds from Earth, including greetings in 55 languages.

The golden records, put together by a committee headed by astronomer Carl Sagan,

were included for any extra-terrestrials who may come into contact with the Voyager

probes.

“When the Voyagers launched in 1977, the space age was all of 20 years old,”

said Stone. “Many of us on the team dreamed of reaching interstellar space, but we

really had no way of knowing how long a journey it would be — or if these two vehicles

that we invested so much time and energy in would operate long enough to reach it.”

When Voyager ventures into inter-stellar space, it will mark a milestone in

human space exploration.

 

 

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