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NASA's Voyager 1 Spacecraft Encounters Unknown Region Of Space At Solar System's Edge

Science & Tech  (tags: astronomy, nasa, space, research, interesting, investigation, Voyager 1, Voyager 2, JPL, Jet Propulsion Laboratory )

- 1757 days ago -
LOS ANGELES -- New research pinpoints the current location of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft: It's still in our solar system.

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Michael O (176)
Saturday June 29, 2013, 8:36 am
By Alicia Chang

Since last summer, the long-running spacecraft has been exploring uncharted territory where the effects of interstellar space, or the space between stars, can be felt. Scientists don't know how thick this newfound region in the solar system is or how much farther Voyager 1 has to travel to break to the other side.

"It could actually be anytime or it could be several more years," said chief scientist Ed Stone of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission.

Stone first described this unexpected zone at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union last year. A trio of papers published online Thursday in the journal Science confirmed just how strange this new layer is.

Soon after Voyager 1 crossed into this region last August, low-energy charged particles that had been plentiful suddenly zipped outside while high-energy cosmic rays from interstellar space streamed inward. Readings by one of Voyager 1's instruments showed an abrupt increase in the magnetic field strength, but there was no change in the direction of the magnetic field lines a sign that Voyager 1 has not yet exited the solar system.

Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched in 1977 to visit the giant gas planets, beaming back dazzling postcards of Jupiter, Saturn and their moons. Voyager 2 went on to tour Uranus and Neptune. After planet-hopping, they were sent on a trajectory toward interstellar space.

Voyager 1 is about 11 1/2 billion miles from the sun. Voyager 2 is about 9 1/2 billion miles from the sun. The nuclear-powered spacecraft have enough fuel to operate their instruments until around 2020.

In the meantime, scientists are looking for any clues of a departure. Given the time it takes to process the data, mission scientist Leonard Burlaga said there will be a lag between when Voyager 1 finally sails into interstellar space and when the team can confirm the act. Then there's always the possibility of surprises beyond the solar system.

"Crossing may not be an instantaneous thing," Burlaga said. "It may be complicated."


Sue Matheson (79)
Saturday June 29, 2013, 8:39 am
it would be neat if it was spun around and came back...

Sue H (7)
Saturday June 29, 2013, 9:04 am
Very cool, thanks.

David C (25)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 1:28 am
> It's still in our solar system.
(???) didn't have to stop at that yellow-black-striped border-bar yet, did it?

David C (25)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 1:35 am
> enough fuel
they're (ofcourse) using RTGs (Radioisotope thermoelectric generator) which don't exactly burn fuel but rather use the (exponentiallly declining) output of radioactive decay

> 1 is about 11 1/2 billion miles from the sun. Voyager 2 is about 9 1/2 billion miles
in more reasonable units, that's --iianm-- 18.5 / 15.3 bio km or simply 123 / 102 AU


Bob hardly here P (394)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 2:37 am
interesting thanks

Gloria picchetti (304)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 6:22 am
Shhhhhh! Don't say anything or Trump will build.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 9:26 am

Birgit W (160)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 1:46 pm
Interesting, thank you.

Past Member (0)
Monday July 1, 2013, 3:28 am
Thanks for the update on this amazing subject.

Past Member (0)
Monday July 1, 2013, 6:28 am
Noted. Thanks.

Dot A (182)
Monday July 1, 2013, 11:53 am
Love this! Michael! Hadn't heard of this 'complication of the unexpected zone' until I read this,... The Kubrick film "2001" comes to mind as in the movie - the spaceship leaves the solar system all kinds of 'events' begin,..... Very interesting stuff*

Dijana D (2)
Monday July 1, 2013, 12:47 pm
this is extremely so thankful i live in a time of such amazing discoveries and exploration

Lois Jordan (63)
Monday July 1, 2013, 4:09 pm
Adding my thanks, Michael. I've always found this fascinating. I look forward to more updates on this, too.

Tom Edgar (56)
Monday July 1, 2013, 6:04 pm
Will they find Heaven or any of the homes of the Gods? I'll give odds.

Mitchell D (104)
Monday July 1, 2013, 6:33 pm
Marvelous stuff!

paul m (93)
Tuesday July 2, 2013, 2:46 am


. (0)
Tuesday July 2, 2013, 7:33 am
Very cool! Thanks for sharing, Michael.

Judith Hand (55)
Tuesday July 2, 2013, 7:17 pm
Noted. Oh, yeah, God ain't small....more, more!

Past Member (0)
Wednesday July 3, 2013, 2:16 am
Fascinating! So when can we move there...thanks michael

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Sunday August 31, 2014, 9:01 pm
Fascinating and intriguing.
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