For at least a year now, NASA has been waiting with bated breath for Voyager 1 to pass through the boundary of our solar system and become our first emissary to the stars. It’s been cruising the edge for some time, but when it finally leaves forever, it won’t be a satisfyingly clear punch-through — so it’s hard to say exactly when this will happen. Or happened. Now the spacecraft is in another strange new zone, where the influx of cosmic particles has been ramping up by the week.
More than three decades after launching from Earth, Voyager 1 is about to leave the solar system. The probe, which was originally launched along with companion spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1977, has entered a new and uncharted region of space between our solar system and the interstellar space beyond that NASA is calling a kind of “cosmic purgatory,” the Telegraph reports.
The Voyager 1 spacecraft might be crossing the interstellar boundary at the edge of our solar system much sooner than scientists thought, according to new data from the probe itself and from the Cassini spacecraft. This milestone — marking the first Earth-born object ever to leave the sun’s field of influence — could actually happen any day now. According to scientists' best estimates, it will happen by the end of 2012.
NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, now in its 33rd year on the job, has reached the very edge of our solar system and is nearing the cusp of interstellar space. How does NASA know? The wind has died down. Voyager 1 has reached a point in the heliosheath that envelopes our solar system in which the speed of the solar wind that has been at Voyager’s back for three decades has dropped to zero.
Next time you're marveling at the fact that Spirit and Opportunity have been roving Mars for over six years now, ponder this: the two Voyager spacecraft have been hurtling through our solar system for nearly 33 years. Today, Voyager 1 hits a mission milestone of operating continuously for 12,000 days. The spacecraft launched on September 5, 1977, while Jimmy Carter was president, and has now traveled 14 billion miles.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.