Voyager 1 enters interstellar space - an incredible journey

Voyager 1 enters interstellar space - an incredible journey

Summary: The Voyager 1 spacecraft has been cruising along for more than 36 years and just earned its greatest achievement by being the first human-made object to break into interstellar space. Here's a look at its entire trip.

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TOPICS: Nasa / Space
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  • Voyager 1

    Space pioneer Voyager 1 has gone where no man-made object has gone before. The tiny spacecraft continues on its 36-year mission, 12 billion miles from Earth, traveling into interstellar space - outside of our solar system.

    Interstellar space is the area between stars and contains plasma that originated from the death of nearby stars millions of years ago. Voyager is now encountering solar wind which is plasma that originated from our sun. For example, a coronal mass ejection from the sun in March, 2012 reached Voyager in April, 2013 and its effect allowed scientists to determine that Voyager had crossed the threshold of interstellar space.

    "Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind's first encounter into interstellar space," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "We literally jumped out of our seats when we saw these oscillations in our data."

    This gallery, which was last updated in June 2013, contains the most incredible images from Voyager 1 and it's twin, Voyager 2 -  from the launch in 1977 to their encounter with the giant planets of our solar system. Voyager 2 is also keeping communication with Earth and is about 15 billion miles away.

    Both spacecraft send signals on a daily basis at about 23 watts or the power needed by a refrigerator light bulb. By the time the signals, traveling at the speed of light,  get to Earth 17 hours later, they are a fraction of a billion-billionth of a watt. Here's what Voyager information sounds like.

    The image above is most likely what Voyager 1 looks like.

     Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

  • This image shows the path taken by Voyager 1. While in the heliosphere which is the edge of a bubble around our solar system it was boosted by solar winds that travel at "supersonic speeds until [they cross] a shockwave called the termination shock," according to NASA. This is the dark blue area that Voyager 1 entered in December 2004.

    The heliosheath (gray) is where the solar wind slows down and heats up. When Voyager 1 passed this area, it encountered interstellar winds, indicating it left the solar system. The area where the interstellar wind meets the heliosphere is called a bowshock and is indicated by the yellow area.

     

     

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Topic: Nasa / Space

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21 comments
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  • Interesting

    To me, this was by far the most interesting article in a long time. Thanks for this compilation. I now must bring my imagination back down to earth and focus on earthly matters.
    hades_2100@...
    • Those guys at area 51

      ... already figure intestellar travel out (w/ the help from aliens of course). They are just not sharing it w/ the public.
      LBiege
      • Re: Those guys at area 51 ... already figure intestellar travel

        After all, without their help, those fake soundstages couldn't have been built on Gliese 581c for filming the Apollo 11 "moon" landings.
        ldo17
  • The best article in recent times.

    Very informative. I bookmarked this.
    Ram U
  • defining unknowns for next voyagers....

    voyager II may be long time off, yet whole new discovery helps define new mission past solar system....

    drashek
    VONDRASHEK@...
  • Great write up Andy..

    The piece I was looking for was how (assuming we are) still in communication with Voyager at that distance? Anyone know?
    omdguy
    • keeping in touch

      4g LTE connection and an android based cell phone... lol
      Jeremy Walters
      • RE: keeping in touch (4g LTE)

        Jeremy, oh Jeremy, why on earth did you have to spoil your good and insightful comment on how they keep in touch with the "lol" at the end?
        fifidonkor@...
    • See the NASA website...

      http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/voyager/index.html
      michaelbreton
    • Plutonium

      Plutonium thermal batteries. They'll stop working in about ten more years.
      Bill4
  • I hate to nitpick, but...

    ...it was Voyager VI in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

    Still, an interesting article.

    Thank you.
    2ndofThree
  • For a total perspective

    Add to the minute blue spec on image 26 "You are here".
    Makes you feel humble!
    Nitramd
  • Pioneer spacecraft was first.

    I believe that either the Pioneer 10 or the Pioneer 11 was the first man made object to leave our solar system.
    raylene_pak@...
    • Kinda...

      Voyager has actually passed Pioneer 10 which was given credit for leaving the solar system years ago. It must depend on where they're drawing the solar system line today. Voyager, for example, wont have passed the Oort Cloud (if it exists) for another 300-400 years.
      Bill4
  • Great article, nice photos, bad format.

    Please move to a Javascript photo gallery and just load new ads with Ajax if you have to because it painful sometimes to read articles here and views photos.
    thank you.
    look595
  • V GER

    Its coming Back To Kill Us ALL !
    sightsandsounds
    • VGER

      Only seeks to meet and become one with the creator.
      greywolf7
  • Seriously

    All that time around Jupiter and its moons and it STILL couldn't find the monolith?
    Non-Euclidean
  • delete off topic thread

    Delete Master Yoda's post and what follows... common ZDNet you deleted one snarky comment I made and you ignore this garbage? Really?
    greywolf7
  • sci fi

    Thirty-six years just to leave the solar system. If nothing else that fact alone suggests how unattainable any hopes or dreams for interstellar space travel are and will be for a long time to come.
    MadCityObserver