NASA's Voyager 2 enters interstellar space

NASA's Voyager 2 enters interstellar space

NASA's Voyager 2 enters interstellar space

NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft have been travelling the interstellar road for more than 40 years, sweeping past the giant planets of the outer solar system before heading to the very fringes of our sun's domain. Voyager 1 is 13 billion miles from Earth and crossed into the interstellar medium in 2012, but its plasma instrument is no longer functioning. Its recent readings show a steep decline in solar wind particles indicating it is now in interstellar space.

The probe has officially entered interstellar space - the area outside the reach of the sun some 18 billion kilometres from Earth - and has been busy sending back data to scientists in Canberra and Parkes in central west NSW.

Forty-one years after it launched into space, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft has crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere.

Unlike Voyager 1, Voyager 2 has instruments set up that measure changes in the speed and direction of high energy plasma particles as the wind from our Sun meets the high energy particles streaming in from the rest of the galaxy. Measurements taken by Voyager 2 on november 5 showed the same pattern of differences measured five years ago by Voyager 1. The solar system's actual limit remains contentious, however, with some researchers defining it not by solar winds but rather by the most distant objects thought to be held in thrall by our sun's gravity-comets in the Oort Cloud up to about two light-years away.

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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. "This is what we've all been waiting for".

"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.

After completing what amounted to the scenic route of the planets of the solar system, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft recently announced to its home planet that it has finally left the sun's influence. Its twin, Voyager 1, crossed this boundary in 2012, but Voyager 2 carries a working instrument that will provide first-of-its-kind observations of the nature of this gateway into interstellar space. "So it's just exciting that we've been able to get it into interstellar space". "Now we're looking forward to what we'll be able to learn from having both probes outside the heliopause". Their five-year lifespans have stretched to 41 years, making Voyager 2 NASA's longest running mission. Each probe contains a 'Golden Record', curated by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan that contains a collection of music, sounds, and images from earth. Belcher was part of the original MIT team, led by Professor Herbert Bridge, that built the Voyager plasma instruments in the 1970s. The devices were launched in October 1977 and now they are the most tenacious NASA.

"We didn't even know how long a spacecraft could operate for", he added.

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