Voyager Space Probe Reaches Edge of Solar System After Nearly 35 Years

Voyager

After being in space for nearly 35 years, the Voyager 1 space probe has reached the edge of the solar system, extending its record as the most distant manmade object in space.

Voyager 1, along with Voyager 2, was launched in 1977 and is now approximately 18 billion kilometres from the sun and expanding that distance at a rate of about 17km per second. At a distance this vast, it now takes 16 hours and 38 minutes for data to reach NASA’s network here on Earth. Both crafts carry a greeting for any extra-terrestrial life they may encounter – a record with sounds and images of life and culture on Earth.

In a statement released by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Voyager 1 is now sending back data which shows a sharp increase in charged particles that originate outside the solar system. These charged particles originate from stars that have exploded elsewhere in the galaxy. For years, they have been rising at a steady rate as Voyager approaches interstellar space, but the trend has become sharper recently.

Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology said, “From January 2009 to January 2012, there had been a gradual increase of about 25% in the amount of galactic cosmic rays Voyager was encountering. 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 5% in a week and 9% in a month.”

While the exact position of the edge of the solar system is unclear, Dr Stone said, “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.”

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