Voyager 1 – Odissey Beyond the Sun.

NASA’s Voyager 1
spacecraft, launched in 1977,
has left our solar system, to
become the first man-made
object to enter interstellar
space. New data shows that
the craft is presently
traveling through plasma,
the ionized gas that makes
up the space between stars,
roughly 12 billion miles from the sun.
NASA reports that the probe had entered the plasma
region about a year ago, though is in a transitional area,
to where the effects of our sun are still present. Ed
Stone, a Voyager project scientist based at the
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, says, “now
that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind’s
historic leap into interstellar space. The Voyager team
needed time to analyze those observations and make
sense of them. But we can now answer the question
we’ve all been asking, ‘Are we there yet?’ Yes, we are.”
The Voyager craft doesn’t have a plasma sensor, so
scientists had to get creative in order to figure out what
sort of environment it was in. In March, 2012, the sun
emitted a burst of solar wind and magnetic fields called
a coronal mass ejection, giving scientists what they’d
needed to get a general idea of the craft’s position. It
took 13 months for this burst to hit Voyager, and on
April 9, the probe’s plasma wave instrument showed the
density of the plasma in the space it was in – about 40
times more dense that what was previously gauged in
the outer layer of the heliosphere.
The analysis of the new data was conducted by the
plasma wave science team at the University of Iowa, led
by Don Gurnett. “We literally jumped out of our seats
when we saw these oscillations in our data – they
showed us the spacecraft was in an entirely new region,
comparable to what was expected in interstellar space,
and totally different than in the solar bubble,” Gurnett
said, adding, “clearly we had passed through the
heliopause, which is the long-hypothesized boundary
between the solar plasma and the interstellar plasma.”
When Voyager 1 was launched decades ago, it’s primary
objective was to obtain detailed images from the Jovian
and Saturnian systems, which was accomplished in
1980. Presently, the nuclear-powered craft is traveling at
about 11 miles per second, and likely won’t be able to
power any of its instruments by 2025. The craft is loaded
with a gold-plated disc full of audio and visual
information, in case any sentient beings from other
planets come across it. The disc includes pictures of
earth and earthlings, various sounds including whale
calls and baby cries, and music by Mozart and Chuck
Berry. The scientific information included also kindly
gives aliens pointers on how to more easily defeat us.

9 thoughts on “Voyager 1 – Odissey Beyond the Sun.

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