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Waspie_Dwarf

Data From Voyager 1: Interstellar Future

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Data From NASA's Voyager 1 Point to Interstellar Future

Data from NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft indicate that the venerable deep-space explorer has encountered a region in space where the intensity of charged particles from beyond our solar system has markedly increased. Voyager scientists looking at this rapid rise draw closer to an inevitable but historic conclusion – that humanity's first emissary to interstellar space is on the edge of our solar system.

"The laws of physics say that someday Voyager will become the first human-made object to enter interstellar space, but we still do not know exactly when that someday will be," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The latest data indicate that we are clearly in a new region where things are changing more quickly. It is very exciting. We are approaching the solar system's frontier."

The data making the 16-hour-38 minute, 11.1-billion-mile (17.8-billion-kilometer), journey from Voyager 1 to antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network on Earth detail the number of charged particles measured by the two High Energy telescopes aboard the 34-year-old spacecraft. These energetic particles were generated when stars in our cosmic neighborhood went supernova.

"From January 2009 to January 2012, there had been a gradual increase of about 25 percent in the amount of galactic cosmic rays Voyager was encountering," said Stone. "More recently, we have seen very rapid escalation in that part of the energy spectrum. Beginning on May 7, the cosmic ray hits have increased five percent in a week and nine percent in a month."

This marked increase is one of a triad of data sets which need to make significant swings of the needle to indicate a new era in space exploration. The second important measure from the spacecraft's two telescopes is the intensity of energetic particles generated inside the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself. While there has been a slow decline in the measurements of these energetic particles, they have not dropped off precipitously, which could be expected when Voyager breaks through the solar boundary.

The final data set that Voyager scientists believe will reveal a major change is the measurement in the direction of the magnetic field lines surrounding the spacecraft. While Voyager is still within the heliosphere, these field lines run east-west. When it passes into interstellar space, the team expects Voyager will find that the magnetic field lines orient in a more north-south direction. Such analysis will take weeks, and the Voyager team is currently crunching the numbers of its latest data set.

"When the Voyagers launched in 1977, the space age was all of 20 years old," said Stone. "Many of us on the team dreamed of reaching interstellar space, but we really had no way of knowing how long a journey it would be -- or if these two vehicles that we invested so much time and energy in would operate long enough to reach it.”

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and 2 are in good health. Voyager 2 is more than 9.1 billion miles (14.7 billion kilometers) away from the sun. Both are operating as part of the Voyager Interstellar Mission, an extended mission to explore the solar system outside the neighborhood of the outer planets and beyond. NASA's Voyagers are the two most distant active representatives of humanity and its desire to explore.

The Voyager spacecraft were built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which continues to operate both. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

More information about Voyager is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/voyager and http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov .

DC Agle 818-393-9011

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726

NASA Headquarters, Washington

Dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

2012-177

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Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
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So it looks like we are about to get something outside of our little bubble...

It's amazing that these two probes are still in good health after 34 years...

Great article, thanks waspie...

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fascinating stuff thanks for posting

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Agreed, what an achievement.

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That article and pic was great. Never knew half that stuff.

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Seriously. The Voyager probes make me proud to be a member of the human race. I first heard of them as a small child. Back then I thought the, astronauts in them must have been very lonely :-)

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That's is so cool that the voyager probes are still going. I love hearing about where they are every few years.

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How many more years until it reaches the end of our galaxy, on estimate?

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"How many more years until it reaches the end of our galaxy, on estimate?"

Probably outside the life time of this planet.

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Impressive!

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How many more years until it reaches the end of our galaxy, on estimate?

It is currently travelling at a speed of 17.26 km/s (10.72 mi/s) and is travelling along the galactic plane (the "equator")... The first star it is scheduled to come near (it will miss it by about 1.6 light years) is AC+79 3888 (which is 17.6ly away)... It will take Voyager 1 roughly 40,000 years to pass AC+79 3888...

Here is an excerpt from "Yahoo Answers" about the question how long until Voyager 1 leaves the Milky Way...

"The diameter of the milky way is about 100,000 light years, whereby our sun is about 26,000 light years away. So if we flew straight out of the galaxy with Voyager 1 this would mean, travelling 74,000 light years at a speed of 1/2 light-hour a year.

1 light-year = 365*24 light-hours, so 74,000 light years are roughly 8,760*74,000=648,240,000 light hours. multiply by two because we only make a half light hour per year= 1,296,480,000 years.

that 1,296,480,000 years. Well we could subtract those 30 that it already has flown, but it doesn't make much difference, does it?"

The real answer is never... From what I gather the escape velocity of the Milky Way Galaxy is somewhere around 1,000 km/s... Voyager 1 is only travelling 17.26 km/s...

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I can't wait... I am so glad I was born in this age to see the first glimpse of inter-stellar space! I have a feeling it is going to be truly remarkable and game changer.

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