Voyager 1 Exits the Solar System - UPDATED

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Voyager 1 Exits the Solar System - UPDATED

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35 years after it launched, the Voyager 1 spacecraft has officially moved beyond the heliosphere - but it's apparently still a step away from interstellar space.

On September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 launched from Cape Canaveral, beginning a journey into space that would bring it into close contact with Jupiter and Saturn and the moons that surround both. But its travels did not end there; it continued to push out into the solar system, becoming the most distant man-made object from the sun in 1998 and beginning an exploration of the heliosheath - the region of the heliosphere beyond the termination shock, where solar winds are slowed, compressed and made turbulent by their interaction with the interstellar medium. And now, based on changes to radiation levels detected last year, the craft has moved beyond the heliosphere and the boundaries of our solar system.

On August 25, anomalous cosmic rays detected by the probe dropped to less than one percent of previously registered amounts, while galactic cosmic rays that originate outside the solar system more than doubled in intensity. That shift, according to Bill Webber, professor emeritus of astronomy at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, is what you would expect from an exit of the heliosphere.

A report to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, states, "It appears that [Voyager 1] has exited the main solar modulation region, revealing [hydrogen] and [helium] spectra characteristic of those to be expected in the local interstellar medium." Even so, there is still some debate among scientists as to whether Voyager 1 has actually entered interstellar space or is merely in a "separate, undefined region beyond the solar system."

"It's outside the normal heliosphere, I would say that," Webber stated. "We're in a new region. And everything we're measuring is different and exciting."

Exciting indeed. Unfortunately, we're not going to learn much about lies beyond our garden fence; Voyager will begin shutting down its instruments in 2020 and at some point after 2025 its power supply will be exhausted. After that, we just have to hope that it doesn't someday come home with a head full of questions and an existential void in its soul.

Source: American Geophysical Union

UPDATE: Further to the "some debate among scientists" business, NASA has issued a statement stating that it believes Voyager 1 is still here, although in a part of "here" that we weren't aware existed until now.

"It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space," Voyager project scientist Edward Stone said. "In December 2012, the Voyager science team reported that Voyager 1 is within a new region called 'the magnetic highway' where energetic particles changed dramatically. A change in the direction of the magnetic field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change of direction has not yet been observed."

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I know I didn't have anything to do with this, but it still gives me a bit of pride; no matter how badly we screw ourselves over on Earth, there's still going to a piece of humanity out there waiting for someone to find it.

Pretty cool. Hopefully no advanced aliens find it and decide to come eat our planet.

Edit: I also agree with the above posters sentiments.

I read about this this afternoon on a local news source. They managed to call it a satellite... sometimes I despair for journalists...

OT: Yay us! I was already conceived, if not born, when it was launched, so I can claim some sort of influence over it's existence I'm sure...

I'm amazed by the fact Voyager is still going. I mean its been out there for over 30 years and is still working perfectly, you'd assume something would break down after all that time.

The Artificially Prolonged:
I'm amazed by the fact Voyager is still going.

I would be more amazed if it would suddenly stop...

I have to wonder if scientists have ever considered making another voyager-like program. With today's technology it would be AMAZING with what we could put in there.

Edit: maybe the aliens were just waiting for us to send something outside the solar system to make contact with us... I doubt it, but anything is possible.

Andy Chalk:
After that, we just have to hope that it doesn't someday come home with a head full of questions and an existential void in its soul.

Hey, V'Ger was just lonely. At least by that point I won't be around to endure another hour of staring at glory shots of a starship's ass.

Now whenever I hear about long-lived space probes or rovers or the like I always think of this:

It's interesting to think these probes will outlast humanity, and will probably still be out there when the sun eventually gives up.

The Artificially Prolonged:
I'm amazed by the fact Voyager is still going. I mean its been out there for over 30 years and is still working perfectly, you'd assume something would break down after all that time.

That's true, I wish we still built cars and appliances that way.

Entitled:

The Artificially Prolonged:
I'm amazed by the fact Voyager is still going.

I would be more amazed if it would suddenly stop...

True dat. Space is really really big. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space. Even still, it's a bit mind-boggling to think about.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

RIP Vault 101
You will be missed.

EHKOS:

The Artificially Prolonged:
I'm amazed by the fact Voyager is still going. I mean its been out there for over 30 years and is still working perfectly, you'd assume something would break down after all that time.

That's true, I wish we still built cars and appliances that way.

I'd just like to point out that unlike Cars & Appliances, Voyager 1 has the Luxury of being in a vacuum, which does help it's lifespan somewhat (60% sure it doesn't have as many moving parts either)

In theory Voyager should be around for millions of years (if not longer_ unless it either runs out of power (unlikely, given how many stars there are out there) or something hits it (even more unlikely).

EHKOS:

The Artificially Prolonged:
I'm amazed by the fact Voyager is still going. I mean its been out there for over 30 years and is still working perfectly, you'd assume something would break down after all that time.

That's true, I wish we still built cars and appliances that way.

Hell I'd buy a NASA car if they made one.

Good by Voyager, Hello V'ger.

Aeshi:
In theory Voyager should be around for millions of years (if not longer_ unless it either runs out of power (unlikely, given how many stars there are out there) or something hits it (even more unlikely).

Did you not read the article above? It will run out of power sometime around 2025. It's not like it's solar powered (that would be stupid because there's almost no solar power that far out). It's powered by three RTG's, which rely on radioactive "fuel" to generate power.

So long, Voyager!

EHKOS:

The Artificially Prolonged:
I'm amazed by the fact Voyager is still going. I mean its been out there for over 30 years and is still working perfectly, you'd assume something would break down after all that time.

That's true, I wish we still built cars and appliances that way.

With outdated equipment and floating through space?
Although I hear the parking spots around Neptune are amazing...

Dear Voyager,

If you do find the Borg, keep it to yourself.

Yours,

Humanity.

From the Voyager twitter:
"Voyager 1 has not left the solar system. Here's the mission science team consensus [statement]"
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-107

It's a pretty Voyage, but not quite a fantastic one.

Zhukov:
Now whenever I hear about long-lived space probes or rovers or the like I always think of this:

Hey we're gunna bring them back eventually, but I wanna punch the bastard who told them it was two way trip.

Zhukov:
Now whenever I hear about long-lived space probes or rovers or the like I always think of this:

You heartless bastard.

OT: This is pretty amazing.

No wheres da aliems

They make it sound exciting but the truth is, a hunk of metal we sent into nothingness 35 years ago is now traveling through vast areas of even more nothingness.

Space is very, very empty. Some people make it sound like you could bump into a fascinating new planet or space-dust, but it's really not the case.

Think of an empty volume the size of Earth. Now occupy that volume with 1 grain of sand, placed in the middle. That grain of sand represents our entire solar system (including Kuiper belt, comets, etc), and that grain of sand is the only grain of sand there, you will not find any more sand in that volume.

Voyager 1 has only just managed to get away from that grain of sand. It is estimated that Voyager 1 will have to travel for another 40,000-50,000 years to reach the next grain of sand (i.e. Alpha Centauri, the closest star). That's longer than the length of time that humans have been walking upright.

That's how depressingly empty space is.

The declare this pretty often don't they, and it seems like its happening more often lately (or maybe i'm just more aware of it) but every time they announce it, it takes a few days for them to change their mind and say "its actually just the next layer out of the solar system... space is big yo".

Beffudled Sheep:
Pretty cool. Hopefully no advanced aliens find it and decide to come eat our planet.

Edit: I also agree with the above posters sentiments.

Or, deeming it a sentient machine like themselves, repairs it, giving it the rudimentary intelleigence it needs to return home and share its data with its creator.

I know Andy Chalk beat me to it, but I still had to say it.

Zachary Amaranth:

Beffudled Sheep:
Pretty cool. Hopefully no advanced aliens find it and decide to come eat our planet.

Edit: I also agree with the above posters sentiments.

Or, deeming it a sentient machine like themselves, repairs it, giving it the rudimentary intelleigence it needs to return home and share its data with its creator.

I know Andy Chalk beat me to it, but I still had to say it.

Me being the negative nancy that I am I never considered that...
Hm, touche.

Beffudled Sheep:
Me being the negative nancy that I am I never considered that...
Hm, touche.

I wouldn't count it as a positive thing. It didn't turn out well the last time.

Zachary Amaranth:

Beffudled Sheep:
Me being the negative nancy that I am I never considered that...
Hm, touche.

I wouldn't count it as a positive thing. It didn't turn out well the last time.

As long as it doesn't return as a Replicator I am A-Okay.

Beffudled Sheep:
As long as it doesn't return as a Replicator I am A-Okay.

That would have made for an interesting ending.

As long as we don't see it in orbit at 8 AU's in diameter then it's all good.

It didn't actually leave yet, but it's getting there. And it really makes me happy that one day soon, a man made object will reach interstellar space. People don't seem to realize how fuckin' huge and cool that is. Everyone in my immediate area is like "meh, who gives a shit". Fuck those people.

So, anyone else have a little bit of hope that they know is almost completely pointless, that aliens have been watching us and were just waiting for us to send something outside of our solar system before contacting us?

Thunderous Cacophony:
I know I didn't have anything to do with this, but it still gives me a bit of pride; no matter how badly we screw ourselves over on Earth, there's still going to a piece of humanity out there waiting for someone to find it.

Not likely. Sorry to burst your bubble but it will probably end up destroyed soon, by asteroids, or some anomaly. It's a miracle it hasn't by now.

By soon I mean fairly soon within the millions of years it could take for 'aliens' to find it in space.

Absurd thought of the moment: there are many scientific instruments and tools made decades ago that are still valuable today and will be of value decades from now. Getting something like this working for so long in such an environment is no small feat.

If within our lifetime it becomes possible to send light/somewhat simple crafts to reach and rendezvous with the likes of Voyager, Pioneer and New Horizons within months instead of decades, these distant emissaries may still be well worth refueling and refurbishing (with radio upgrades of course).

Yes, well, I hope we start a new space probe program since this one worked so well. It's nice to see that we got a probe out of the system, now if we could only do it with a person.

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