NASA's Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space

NASA's Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space

NASA's Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space

In 2012, Voyager 1 also detected a steep decline in solar wind particle counts, signifying that it was the first of the pair to reach interstellar space.

Voyager 2 is expected to stop being able to send back science data in 2025 and we will lose communication completely with Earth by the early 2030s.

The two plutonium-powered spacecraft, launched in 1977 to make a tour of the giant planets, are still operational and continue to explore. "We're probably only going to have four to five years left of data", Christian says. Their continuing science will help shed light on how particles flowing off the sun collide with the particles on the interstellar wind beyond. At greater distances, the solar wind diminishes and is overtaken by the interstellar flow.

At its current speed, Voyager 2 most likely wouldn't reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud for another 300 years. Fluctuating solar activity made the boundary oscillate, so the spacecraft ended up crossing the termination shock several times.

Voyager 2 is now more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from Earth. NASA's DSN, managed by JPL, is an global network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe. Originally some scientists speculated our star's winds would peter out in the vicinity of Mars, but the Voyager spacecraft have gradually pushed this boundary far beyond. "That same day the magnetic field increased, and that's also the point at which the plasma [instrument] quit measuring the solar wind".

When it comes to prodding the very boundaries of the Solar System we all reside in, astronomers have had a notoriously tricky time of figuring out where those edges truly lie. Voyager-2 has been traveling at 34,390 miles per hour while Voyager-1 outpaces it at just over 38,000 mph.

"We're learning a lot about the differences as well as the commonalities", he said. In August of this year, the mission turned 41, and "Voyager" continue its journey in outer space.

"Both spacecrafts are very healthy if you consider them senior citizens", Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd said.

Dodd said she hoped the spacecraft could reach their 50th anniversary in 2027, although not all of the instruments will still be operating. One everyday example of how much technology has been revolutionised since they left, smartphones now have 200,000 times memory than the two probes. These include the instrument's principal investigator, John Richardson, a principal research scientist in the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, and John Belcher, the Class of 1992 Professor of Physics.

However, NASA says Voyager 2 has not left the solar system, and neither of the twin probes will do so anytime soon. Launched in 1977, the Voyagers are now NASA's longest-running mission, having far surpassed their original 5-year assignment to study the outer planets of our solar system.

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