NASA's Voyager 1 May Have Left Our Solar System

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NASA's Voyager 1 May Have Left Our Solar System

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A growing body of evidence suggests that Voyager 1 is flying through interstellar space.

Earlier this year, scientists at NASA started speculating about how close the 35 year-old Voyager 1 spacecraft was to crossing the border between our solar system and interstellar space. Now, barely a few months after those talks, scientists have revealed something really exciting: Voyager 1 is sending home data that suggests it may already be flying through interstellar space.

The science of distinguishing interstellar space from our-solar-system-space is still in its infancy (when Voyager 1 leaves our system, it will be the first human-made object in history to do so). To try and predict when Voyager might make the leap, NASA scientists set about investigating what kind of conditions the craft could encounter beyond our solar system, basing much of their hypothesis on how they expected our sun's solar wind (the tiny charged particles it spends its life spraying across the sky) to smash into the edge of the system and spin sideways, leaving Voyager well alone. If the craft was still picking up the solar wind, cool, it was still in our little corner of space. If not, it had crossed the border into the great unknown.

But, hey, this is science. Instead of finding a neat solar wind barrier, Voyager 1 discovered that once you get close to the edge of interstellar space, our sun's solar wind just sort of tapers off and then stops dead. While fascinating, the discovery of this "stagnation zone" (as described in Nature) managed to scupper most of NASA's preconceptions about day-to-day conditions in interstellar space.

"There is no well-established criteria of what constitutes exit from [our solar system]," said Stamatios Krimigis, NASA principal investigator in charge of Voyager 1's Low-Energy Charged Particle instrument, in an interview. "All theoretical models have been found wanting."

Despite this, there are still three factors that most scientists agree would consitute evidence of an exit from our solar system if a craft experienced them in tandem. First, the craft would have to experience an increase in collisions from charged particles found in interstellar space. Second, the rate at which solar particles collided with it, irrespective of where these particles might be going, would have to drop dramatically. Finally, the craft must be able to detect a change in the direction of the magnetic fields surrounding it; once the craft is beyond the grasp of our sun, the fields around it should shift to reflect the direction of magnetic fields in interstellar space.

"Most scientists involved with Voyager 1 would agree that [criteria one and two] have been sufficiently satisfied," said Ed Roelof, a scientist at Johns Hopkins who works with Voyager 1 data. "[The change in magnetic field direction to that of the interstellar field beyond the influence of the sun] is critical because, even though there is debate among astrophysicists as to what direction the field will lie in, it seems unlikely that it is the direction that we have been seeing at Voyager 1 throughout the most recent years."

"That is why we are all awaiting the analysis of the most recent magnetic field measurements from Voyager 1. We will be looking for the expected change to a new and steady direction. That would drop the third independent piece of evidence into place - if indeed that's what will be seen," concluded Roelof.

"Once we have a consensus within the team we will inform NASA for a proper announcement," added Krimigis, commenting on how the agency will go about telling the world of Voyager 1's exit if the data is confirmed in the coming weeks.

What we can gather from this is that is it the case, or will in all likelihood soon be the case, that something built by the hands of humans is ready to explore the universe beyond our solar system. Although most of its highly sensitive sensors were shut down years ago to conserve energy, Voyager 1 is still packing enough functioning equipment to send back some data on real conditions outside our pocket of space. How will magnetic fields behave beyond the reach of our sun? What's the deal with the solar wind getting to the edge of our system and then stagnating? The mind boggles both at what Voyager 1 might find, and what effects its discoveries might have on any number of standing preconceptions in astrophysics. Way to go, little guy. Way to go.

Source: Space.com

Image: NASA

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This is awesome. Now we have a better chance of aliens finding it, coming to earth and taking us off this rock to have cool space adventures.

DugMachine:
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This is awesome. Now we have a better chance of aliens finding it, coming to earth and taking us off this rock to have cool space adventures.

Yes, I'm sure the species that still has the KKK and problems with gay people can totally handle space aliens.

This is so fuckin' awesome it makes me teary. Godspeed Voyager 1. Godspeed.

It is my biggest dream to one day go to space. I could die right after that and I wouldn't give a damn. It is, after all, the final frontier.

We have to send humans further than the moon before we can send them into deep space.

I'll never be bored of Space.

Racecarlock:

Yes, I'm sure the species that still has the KKK and problems with gay people can totally handle space aliens.

Good point. Okay aliens, keep the rest. I'm not racist and my best friend is a feminist lesbian TAKE ME!

Surely the end of our solar system is the orbital path of the last planet? I mean that would seem logical.

Alandoril:
Surely the end of our solar system is the orbital path of the last planet? I mean that would seem logical.

Since there are still non-planetary objects orbiting Sol, that's not an option. Of course, taking the "last object directly orbiting Sol" might be an option, but now try finding the last suitable object ... Using the emitted particles marks the end of the solar influence, thus is at least measurable.

Alandoril:
Surely the end of our solar system is the orbital path of the last planet? I mean that would seem logical.

Whilst I can understand why you would think that as a possibility, no.

The moon is very much inside the Earth's sphere of influence despite being so much further out than where our atmosphere ends.

The sun's gravity and magnetic hold extend a good bit further than you would assume. Imagine it like a bubble. If pluto was too near the edge of the bubble, it's own speed would cause it to fall out the bubble, but due to being closer to the centre, the snu is able to continue exerting more power on it to keep it in orbit, but the sun could easily hold atoms and particles quite a bit beyond. Pluto is quite large. Even if Voyager were to be put in a circularised orbit, it could easily orbit much further out than Pluto

But the real question is: When will it become Vger and spawn the Borg?

JaredXE:
But the real question is: When will it become Vger and spawn the Borg?

Who cares? we'll have died of old age by then, its their problem.

On title: god damnit, people keep stealing our crap!

OT: My only real question is..... is there any clue on how long it will take before it reaches another solar system when it does leave? Because i don't think we get reception out there.

snekadid:
OT: My only real question is..... is there any clue on how long it will take before it reaches another solar system when it does leave? Because i don't think we get reception out there.

After a trip to wikipedia I found two things:

1. Voyager 1 is heading in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus and that the closet star in that constellation is 5.98 light years away

2. Voyager 1 will need about 17,565 years at its current velocity to travel a complete light year

So it will be 105,038.7 years until Voyager 1 gets anywhere close to another star.

stoddapb:

snekadid:
OT: My only real question is..... is there any clue on how long it will take before it reaches another solar system when it does leave? Because i don't think we get reception out there.

After a trip to wikipedia I found two things:

1. Voyager 1 is heading in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus and that the closet star in that constellation is 5.98 light years away

2. Voyager 1 will need about 17,565 years at its current velocity to travel a complete light year

So it will be 105,038.7 years until Voyager 1 gets anywhere close to another star.

Unless it hits the edge of the screen and start coming back from the opposite side of the solar system. Thus proving once and for all that we're just npc's in a really, really shitty video game.

I like to imagine that in a few centuries, Voyager 1 is still continuing on its way and occasionally, there are people on sightseeing tours visiting the historical object. They take some family pictures with it and then go back doing whatever humans do in that time, while Voyager is still continuing.

Racecarlock:

Yes, I'm sure the species that still has the KKK and problems with gay people can totally handle space aliens.

To be honest, I am quite convinced that eventually WE are going to turn out to be this galaxy's Borg/Reapers/Shadows/Nephilim/Skirineen/Ur'Quan/Yuuzan Vong/Shak'turi/Dread Lords/ID4 Aliens. (Extra points for naming all the sources these appear in.)

Just saying, nuclear weapons are not something you automatically discover before you get to space flight...

And in 350 years it'll end up in the delta quadrant, 75,000 lightyear's away from home, where it will turn back around and make its slow "trek" to get back home.

But seriously, this is awesome. I hope we invent a practical method of FTL drives before I die. I doubt it would be cheap, but not too much more expensive than rockets today. That' would put a smile on my face.

Question: If you were travelling at the speed of light (or hypothetically faster), could you pass through other objects? For instance, would the only thing that could stop you be a black hole, and would a massive-enough objects' gravity bend you off course all the time?

Monsterfurby:

Racecarlock:

Yes, I'm sure the species that still has the KKK and problems with gay people can totally handle space aliens.

To be honest, I am quite convinced that eventually WE are going to turn out to be this galaxy's Borg/Reapers/Shadows/Nephilim/Skirineen/Ur'Quan/Yuuzan Vong/Shak'turi/Dread Lords/ID4 Aliens. (Extra points for naming all the sources these appear in.)

Just saying, nuclear weapons are not something you automatically discover before you get to space flight...

Nah, we'd be more like really stupid klingons.

Bvenged:
And in 350 years it'll end up in the delta quadrant, 75,000 lightyear's away from home, where it will turn back around and make its slow "trek" to get back home.

But seriously, this is awesome. I hope we invent a practical method of FTL drives before I die. I doubt it would be cheap, but not too much more expensive than rockets today. That' would put a smile on my face.

Question: If you were travelling at the speed of light (or hypothetically faster), could you pass through other objects? For instance, would the only thing that could stop you be a black hole, and would a massive-enough objects' gravity bend you off course all the time?

No, you wouldn't be able to pass through other things. Light particles (photons) can't pass through other objects and they travel at the speed of light ;)
If you were to move at the speed of light and you were to hit a planet, it would be like a meteor hitting the ground.. at lightspeed. And that's QUITE an explosion.

I believe XKCD had a column where he calculated that a baseball going at the speed of light would nuke a city. EDIT: Source http://what-if.xkcd.com/1/

It's amazing just imagining the satellite floating out there in the vast black open void. It's beautiful...

Adam Jensen:
This is so fuckin' awesome it makes me teary. Godspeed Voyager 1. Godspeed.

It is my biggest dream to one day go to space. I could die right after that and I wouldn't give a damn. It is, after all, the final frontier.

You echo my feelings man. I may have never met you before but this post has caused me to instantly like you.

The biggest smile appeared on my face when I saw this. I can't even describe the excitement and pure joy that is flooding my body right now. One day humanity will truly be able to touch the stars. I may not be alive for that day but I can be alive for these small first steps and think endlessly on the possibilities.
Go with speed voyager. May your trip be long and informative.

all I'm hoping is that if aliens find this thing and come down to Earth out of curiosity that they're smart. Imagine if we're the most intelligent beings in the universe and all other alien races in the galaxy behave like Snooki from Jersey Shore o__0

Had this looping in my head while reading this article.

I can think of nothing more suitable for this news but to put on some headphones and listen to my favourite track on the Golden Record. It's like Blind Willie Johnson knew the loneliness of space.

Quiet Stranger:
It's amazing just imagining the satellite floating out there in the vast black open void. It's beautiful...

Jeez, when you actually take a minute and think about that; man-made tech floating outside our solar system, and how far away it is from us... how far away it is from anything, and just look at that image of it.

Damn.

God speed Voyager 1.

Must be an incredible feeling for the scientists who worked on it 35 years ago to see that Voyager 1 is still making an impact and expanding the scope of human knowledge

Hero in a half shell:

Quiet Stranger:
It's amazing just imagining the satellite floating out there in the vast black open void. It's beautiful...

Jeez, when you actually take a minute and think about that; man-made tech floating outside our solar system, and how far away it is from us... how far away it is from anything, and just look at that image of it.

Damn.

It's even better if you imagine it with "What a wonderful world" playing as if it were far away or one of those old songs.

JaredXE:
But the real question is: When will it become Vger and spawn the Borg?

Wait! Vger spawned the borg?

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Monsterfurby:

Racecarlock:

Yes, I'm sure the species that still has the KKK and problems with gay people can totally handle space aliens.

To be honest, I am quite convinced that eventually WE are going to turn out to be this galaxy's Borg/Reapers/Shadows/Nephilim/Skirineen/Ur'Quan/Yuuzan Vong/Shak'turi/Dread Lords/ID4 Aliens. (Extra points for naming all the sources these appear in.)

Just saying, nuclear weapons are not something you automatically discover before you get to space flight...


And that's all I know. Also you forgot the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Cylons.

canadamus_prime:

Monsterfurby:

Racecarlock:

Yes, I'm sure the species that still has the KKK and problems with gay people can totally handle space aliens.

To be honest, I am quite convinced that eventually WE are going to turn out to be this galaxy's Borg/Reapers/Shadows/Nephilim/Skirineen/Ur'Quan/Yuuzan Vong/Shak'turi/Dread Lords/ID4 Aliens. (Extra points for naming all the sources these appear in.)

Just saying, nuclear weapons are not something you automatically discover before you get to space flight...


And that's all I know. Also you forgot the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Cylons.

You don't know what the ID4 Aliens are from? Really?

Monsterfurby:

To be honest, I am quite convinced that eventually WE are going to turn out to be this galaxy's Borg/Reapers/Shadows/Nephilim/Skirineen/Ur'Quan/Yuuzan Vong/Shak'turi/Dread Lords/ID4 Aliens. (Extra points for naming all the sources these appear in.)

Just saying, nuclear weapons are not something you automatically discover before you get to space flight...

You may not automatically "discover" nuclear weapons on your way to space travel specifically, but its kinda hard to avoid at least knowing how powerful fusion/fission is and knowing how to harness it.

octafish:

canadamus_prime:

Monsterfurby:

To be honest, I am quite convinced that eventually WE are going to turn out to be this galaxy's Borg/Reapers/Shadows/Nephilim/Skirineen/Ur'Quan/Yuuzan Vong/Shak'turi/Dread Lords/ID4 Aliens. (Extra points for naming all the sources these appear in.)

Just saying, nuclear weapons are not something you automatically discover before you get to space flight...


And that's all I know. Also you forgot the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Cylons.

You don't know what the ID4 Aliens are from? Really?

*Quick Google search*
Oh those aliens. Yeah, I know them. Just never heard of them being referred to as "ID4 Aliens" before.

I'm surprised that it's still working.

KeyMaster45:

stoddapb:

snekadid:
OT: My only real question is..... is there any clue on how long it will take before it reaches another solar system when it does leave? Because i don't think we get reception out there.

After a trip to wikipedia I found two things:

1. Voyager 1 is heading in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus and that the closet star in that constellation is 5.98 light years away

2. Voyager 1 will need about 17,565 years at its current velocity to travel a complete light year

So it will be 105,038.7 years until Voyager 1 gets anywhere close to another star.

Unless it hits the edge of the screen and start coming back from the opposite side of the solar system. Thus proving once and for all that we're just npc's in a really, really shitty video game.

Gotta say... its kind of saddening hearing all the numbers up front like that. I want space travel to be possible, but... I'll certainly never see it happen.

soren7550:
I'm surprised that it's still working.

They don't make them like they used to

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The Voyager is the Nokia 3310 of it's day

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