Voyager 1 becomes first spacecraft to leave solar system

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Voyager 1 becomes first spacecraft to leave solar system

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Voyager 1 becomes first spacecraft to leave solar system: NASA

By: Alicia Chang The Associated Press, Published on Thu Sep 12 2013

LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—Voyager 1 has crossed a new frontier, becoming the first spacecraft ever to leave the solar system, NASA said Thursday.

Thirty-six years after it was launched from Earth on a tour of the outer planets, the plutonium-powered spacecraft is more than 11 ½ billion miles from the sun, cruising through what scientists call interstellar space — the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, the U.S. space agency said.

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Voyager 1 actually made its exit more than a year ago, according to NASA. But it’s not as if there’s a clear boundary line, and it was not until recently that NASA had the evidence to support what an outside research team claimed last month: that the spacecraft had finally plowed through the hot plasma bubble surrounding the planets and escaped the sun’s influence.
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While some scientists said they remain unconvinced, NASA celebrated.

“It’s a milestone and the beginning of a new journey,” said mission chief scientist Ed Stone at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Voyager 1 will now study exotic particles and other phenomena in a never-before-explored part of the universe and radio the data back to Earth, where the Voyager team awaits the starship’s discoveries.

The interstellar ambassador also carries a gold-plated disc containing multicultural greetings, songs and photos, just in case it bumps into an intelligent species.

Voyager 1’s odyssey began in 1977 when the spacecraft and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched on a tour of the gas giant planets of the solar system. After beaming back dazzling postcard views of Jupiter’s giant red spot and Saturn’s shimmering rings, Voyager 2 moved on to Uranus and Neptune. Meanwhile, Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to power itself past Pluto.

Voyager 1, which is about the size of a subcompact car, carries instruments that study magnetic fields, cosmic rays and solar wind.

Last year, scientists monitoring Voyager 1 noticed strange happenings that suggested the spacecraft had broken through: Charged particles streaming from the sun suddenly vanished. At the same time, there was a spike in galactic cosmic rays bursting in from the outside.

Since there was no detectable change in the direction of the magnetic field lines, the team assumed the far-flung craft was still in the heliosphere, or the vast bubble of charged particles around the sun.

The Voyager team patiently waited for a change in magnetic field direction — thought to be the telltale sign of a cosmic border crossing. But in the meantime, a chance solar eruption caused the space around Voyager 1 to echo like a bell last spring and provided the scientists with the information they needed, convincing them the boundary had been crossed in August of last year.

“It took us 10 seconds to realize we were in interstellar space,” said Don Gurnett, a Voyager scientist at the University of Iowa who led the new research, published online in the journal Science.

The new observations are fascinating, but “it’s premature to judge,” said Lennard Fisk, a space science professor at the University of Michigan and former NASA associate administrator who was not part of the team. “Can we wait a little while longer? Maybe this picture will clear up the farther we go.”

What bothers Fisk is the absence of a change in magnetic field direction.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell was more blunt: “I’m actually not going to believe it for another year or two until it’s been solidly outside for a while.”

Voyager 2 trails behind at 9 ½ billion miles from the sun. It may take another three years before Voyager 2 joins its twin on the other side. Eventually, the Voyagers will run out of nuclear fuel and will have to power down their instruments, perhaps by 2025.
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Re: Voyager 1 becomes first spacecraft to leave solar system

Post by Madbiologist »

Finally mankind (at least a Human made object) has finally reached interstellar space. I think it is interesting news, however I am saddened by the fact so few care about.

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Re: Voyager 1 becomes first spacecraft to leave solar system

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Those who care remember, how many times has Voyager 1 left the Solar System already.

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Re: Voyager 1 becomes first spacecraft to leave solar system

Post by Grogger »

True_poser wrote:Those who care remember, how many times has Voyager 1 left the Solar System already.
Haha, it's not Voyager 1's fault the the 'edge of the solar system' has been redefined several times over!

Also, I believe the spacecraft has not left the Solar system exactly, but has instead reached the Oort cloud, considered to be interstellar space AND still part of our Solar System (don't quote me on it, I'm not sure of the exact details)

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Re: Voyager 1 becomes first spacecraft to leave solar system

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Well, it'll fly to some other star eventually, and then this question will be properly closed.

Regarding why so few care about it - the same story happened with the polar exploration.
A land of danger, a land of unknown, a land of wonder, bearable only by daring and brave, the best men and women of the human race.
Turned out that polar regions are just a hostile and desolate wasteland, of some utilitarian, but utterly non-romantic value.

With space it's even worse - we can send robots with one-way ticket, no real need for humans in space anymore. Well, except for maintenance of maintainable satellites.
Some desperate people claim they have the right to die on other planets. Noone really listens, it would be a PR disaster to have them die there, it's far better to leave them rot on Earth.

Safe and compact cold fusion will bring warmth and life to the poles.
Cheap hyperdrive will shatter each and every Earth society (and, quite possibly, will drain Earth dry of any rocket fuel with millions reaching the orbit and leaving billions behind).
But that's another story. Quite possibly it's just sci-fi, the opium of nerds.

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Re: Voyager 1 becomes first spacecraft to leave solar system

Post by Blackcat345 »

Since 2004, the unmanned probe has been exploring a region of space where solar wind — a stream of charged particles spewing from the sun at 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometres) per hour — slows abruptly and crashes into the thin gas between stars.

NASA said Monday that recent readings show the average outward speed of the solar wind has slowed to zero, meaning the spacecraft is nearing ever closer to the solar system's edge to a boundary known as the heliopause. :D
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Re: Voyager 1 becomes first spacecraft to leave solar system

Post by keller »

Very exciting indeed! Who knows what it might find.
I would be very pleased if it ran into some aliens !
keller~