Voyager 1 space probe reaches outer fringe of solar system

41

Voyager 1, launched
in 1977 to explore the outer planets, has passed into a new region on
its way out of the solar system, scientists said on Wednesday.

The spacecraft, now more than 11 billion miles
(18 billion km) away, detected two distinct and related changes in its
environment on August 25, 2012, scientists write in paper to be
published in Geophysical Research Letters and emailed to Reuters on
Wednesday.

The probe detected
dramatic changes in the levels of two types of radiation, one that stays
inside the solar system, the other which comes from interstellar space.

The
number of particles inside the solar system’s bubble in space, a region
called the heliosphere, dropped to less than 1 percent of previously
detected levels, while radiation from interstellar sources nearly
doubled, said astronomer and lead author Bill Webber, professor emeritus
at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Scientists are not yet ready to say Voyager is in interstellar space, however

Written By: Irene Klotz
continue to source article at reuters.com

41 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #4 by sujit:

      “Voyager-1 is on course to approach a star called AC +793888, but it will only get to within two light-years of it and it will be tens of thousands of years before it does so.”
      from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21866532
      This star ” AC +793888″ is mentioned in lot of news articles, but i could not find any information about the star or where is located or how far away it is from earth. Can anyone tell me?

      Thanks. I did not know that it was lined up to go anywhere in particular after leaving us behind.

  1. That’s no spacecraft. It’s a tombstone. :-j

    On another note, some interesting facts from the Voyager NASA site:

    “The Voyager spacecraft can point its scientific instruments on the scan platform to an accuracy of better than one-tenth of a degree. This is comparable to bowling strike-after-strike ad infinitum, assuming that you must hit within one inch of the strike pocket every time. Such precision is necessary to properly center the narrow-angle picture whose square field-of-view would be equivalent to the width of a bowling pin.

    To avoid smearing in Voyager’s television pictures, spacecraft angular rates must be extremely small to hold the cameras as steady as possible during the exposure time. Each spacecraft is so steady that angular rates are typically 15 times slower than the motion of a clock’s hour hand. But even this was not steady enough at Neptune, where light levels are 900 times fainter than those on Earth. Spacecraft engineers devised ways to make Voyager 30 times steadier than the hour hand on a clock.

    Each Voyager used the enormous gravity field of Jupiter to be hurled on to Saturn, experiencing a Sun-relative speed increase of roughly 35,700 mph. As total energy within the solar system must be conserved, Jupiter was initially slowed in its solar orbit—but by only one foot per trillion years.

    The rings of Uranus are so dark that Voyager’s challenge of taking their picture was comparable to the task of photographing a pile of charcoal briquettes at the foot of a Christmas tree, illuminated only by a 1 watt bulb at the top of the tree, using ASA-64 film. And Neptune light levels will be less than half those at Uranus.

    The sensitivity of our deep-space tracking antennas located around the world is truly amazing. The antennas must capture Voyager information from a signal so weak that the power striking the antenna is only 10 exponent -16 watts (1 part in 10 quadrillion). A modern-day electronic digital watch operates at a power level 20 billion times greater than this feeble level.”

    Mike

  2. That probe was launched the same year Elvis died and it hasn’t reached interstellar space yet, incredible! It gives me a faint idea as to how vast our solar system is never mind our galaxy never mind the distance to andromeda our nearest galaxy. But its a little but depressing to think that after 36 years of travel its only gone that far I don’t think we will prove life outside earth in our lifetime.

  3. It’s weird to think that one day some relatively average Joe’s will get into their little space ship and bring the probe back to earth to be displayed as a museum piece.

    One can only dream.

    • In reply to #9 by papa lazaru:

      It’s weird to think that one day some relatively average Joe’s will get into their little space ship and bring the probe back to earth to be displayed as a museum piece.

      One can only dream.

      Here’s a link to help with the dream – http://100yss.org/ – first you can scroll-up from take-off and look back at the Earth!

      If you want to take it more seriously in the longer term, this event is being organised!

      Starship Congress 2013

      http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/ – Icarus Interstellar is pleased to announce our first public international conference, titled “Starship Congress”. Starship Congress will be held at the Anatole Hilton in Dallas, Texas August 15-18, 2013. We would like to invite you to attend this exciting event where you’ll get to hear some of the world’s experts on travel to the stars…

      Icarus Interstellar is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to achieving interstellar flight by 2100.

  4. There is some info on Voyager here:- http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/interstellar.html

    The Solar-System is flying around our galaxy with interstellar winds creating a “bow-shock-wave” where it meets the heliopause.

    Alt Text (Right click and select “view image”)
    Alt Text

    The trajectories of the Voyager and Pioneer probes through the Solar-System are shown in the images.

    The Voyagers are destined—perhaps eternally—to wander the Milky Way.

  5. A quick calculation and you can show that this man made object has been averaging about 34880 mph for 36 years (in order to travel 11 billion miles). Traveling at this velocity it hasn’t gotten out of our solar system. At this pace, getting to the next nearest star (Alpha Centauri about 4 light years away) would take 44,327,006 years.

    This makes it (in my opinion) very unlikely that any aliens can get to earth. And, if they did, very very unlikely that they would crash and flounder in our environment. They would have had to set out to get here so long ago or travel at such faster paces than we can, that their technology would appear as magic to us and they would have little opposition to their doing whatever the hell they wanted once they got here.

    • In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

      They would have had to set out to get here so long ago or travel at such faster paces than we can, that their technology would appear as magic to us and they would have little opposition to their doing whatever the hell they wanted once they got here.

      … and they would be looking for accessible bulk supplies of propellent etc to resupply their ship(s)!

    • In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

      A quick calculation and you can show that this man made object has been averaging about 34880 mph for 36 years (in order to travel 11 billion miles). Traveling at this velocity it hasn’t gotten out of our solar system. At this pace, getting to the next nearest star (Alpha Centauri about 4 light years away) would take 44,327,006 years.

      This makes it (in my opinion) very unlikely that any aliens can get to earth. And, if they did, very very unlikely that they would crash and flounder in our environment. They would have had to set out to get here so long ago or travel at such faster paces than we can, that their technology would appear as magic to us and they would have little opposition to their doing whatever the hell they wanted once they got here.

      indeed, they’d probably even have cloaking devices that could fool even the most sophisticated space-based and earth based arrays of telescopes scanning the skies at every wavelength. but something tells me their craft would be no match for the mighty handy-cam

    • In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

      A quick calculation and you can show that this man made object has been averaging about 34880 mph for 36 years (in order to travel 11 billion miles). Traveling at this velocity it hasn’t gotten out of our solar system. At this pace, getting to the next nearest star (Alpha Centauri about 4 light years away) would take 44,327,006 years.

      That sounds way off, but I get your point.

      • It turns out you are right. I must have pressed the wrong damn button on my calculator! Thanks for correcting me… Here is the real calculation:

        The only corner I cut was saying that Alpha Centuari is 4 light years away when, it is 4.37 light years away.

        36 years x 365 days/year x 24 hours/day = 315360 hours that the voyager has journeyed.

        11 000 000 000 miles in 315360 hours = 34880.77 mph average speed.

        Alpha centuari is 4.37 light years away (I’ll round to 4). A light year is 5.8784991 x 10^ 12 miles.

        So it is 4 light years x # of miles in a light year.. This works out to be 2.35 x 10 ^ 13 miles.

        Travelling at 34880 mph it would take 674139805 hours to get there. Divide by 24 (hours in a day) and 365 (days in a year) and you get 76956.59 years….

        So I was way way off!!! You are correct in calling me out…. Dammit, I am guilty of breaking my own rules!!! I should have checked BEFORE I posted.

        In reply to #19 by JoeT:

        In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

        A quick calculation and you can show that this man made object has been averaging about 34880 mph for 36 years (in order to travel 11 billion miles). Traveling at this velocity it hasn’t gotten out of our solar system. At this pace, getting to the next nearest star (Alpha Centauri about 4 light years away) would take 44,327,006 years.

        That sounds way off, but I get your point.

    • In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

      They would have had to set out to get here so long ago or travel at such faster paces than we can, that their technology would appear as magic to us and they would have little opposition to their doing whatever the hell they wanted once they got here.

      Solid logic for dismissing any claims of alien sightings.
      That is, unless they pull into orbit, and broadcast a message across all channels to the entire world.

      • Don’t you think that they’d be very likely to do something on that scale? Rather than abduct a lone redneck in a lone pickup truck on a lone highway at midnight and insert an anal probe???

        Also, with the advent of the “camera in every pocket” society, shouldn’t the number of photos of UFO’s have exponentially increased???

        In reply to #23 by zengardener:

        In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

        They would have had to set out to get here so long ago or travel at such faster paces than we can, that their technology would appear as magic to us and they would have little opposition to their doing whatever the hell they wanted once they got here.

        Solid logic for dismissing any claims of alien sightings.
        That is, unless they pull into orbit, and broadcast a message across all channels to the entire world.

    • In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

      A quick calculation and you can show that this man made object has been averaging about 34880 mph for 36 years (in order to travel 11 billion miles). Traveling at this velocity it hasn’t gotten out of our solar system. At this pace, getting to the next nearest star (Alpha Centauri about 4 light years away) would take 44,327,006 years.

      This makes it (in my opinion) very unlikely that any aliens can get to earth. And, if they did, very very unlikely that they would crash and flounder in our environment. They would have had to set out to get here so long ago or travel at such faster paces than we can, that their technology would appear as magic to us and they would have little opposition to their doing whatever the hell they wanted once they got here.

      Crookedshoes,
      The slow pace of Voyager has resulted from a very limited fuel supply, combined with a chemical combustion propulsion system. More sophisticated propulsion systems (with a large fuel supply) can deliver speeds that are enormously greater.

      Under special circumstances, our alien friends can get to Earth at the speed of light.
      This would require our friends to beam to us an electromagnetic signal with complete and explicit instructions on how to create the DNA or the semiconductors, or whatever that could be used to cook up an alien replica here on Earth. Additional information would be sent to us to educate the Alien to make her understand her own world and culture. This Alien and her Alien friends could then do the talk show circuit and book tours.

      At the same time, we, of course, could beam out our own DNA and cultural data.

      • Very cool thoughts!!

        In reply to #30 by Chuck Johnson:

        In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

        A quick calculation and you can show that this man made object has been averaging about 34880 mph for 36 years (in order to travel 11 billion miles). Traveling at this velocity it hasn’t gotten out of our solar system. At this pace, getting to the next nearest star (Alpha Centauri about 4 light years away) would take 44,327,006 years.

        This makes it (in my opinion) very unlikely that any aliens can get to earth. And, if they did, very very unlikely that they would crash and flounder in our environment. They would have had to set out to get here so long ago or travel at such faster paces than we can, that their technology would appear as magic to us and they would have little opposition to their doing whatever the hell they wanted once they got here.

        Crookedshoes,

         The slow pace of Voyager has resulted from a very limited fuel supply, combined with a chemical combustion propulsion system. More sophisticated propulsion systems (with a large fuel supply) can deliver speeds that are enormously greater. 
        

        Under special circumstances, our alien friends can get to Earth at the speed of light.
        This would require our friends to beam to us an electromagnetic signal with complete and explicit instructions on how to create the DNA or the semiconductors, or whatever that could be used to cook up an alien replica here on Earth. Additional information would be sent to us to educate the Alien to make her understand her own world and culture. This Alien and her Alien friends could then do the talk show circuit and book tours.

        At the same time, we, of course, could beam out our own DNA and cultural data.

      • In reply to #30 by Chuck Johnson:

        Under special circumstances, our alien friends can get to Earth at the speed of light.
        This would require our friends to beam to us an electromagnetic signal with complete and explicit instructions on how to create the DNA or the semiconductors, or whatever that could be used to cook up an alien replica here on Earth. Additional information would be sent to us to educate the Alien to make her understand her own world and culture. This Alien and her Alien friends could then do the talk show circuit and book tours.

        The advanced thinkers of astronomy came up with this quite a while ago.

        http://homepage.ntlworld.com/john.seymour1/ukbookguide/Series/aforandromeda.html

        A for Andromeda was one of the BBC’s first major sci-fi TV productions of the 1960s, and was devised by prominent astronomer Fred Hoyle, who contributed the outline for the story, with the final scripts being written by BBC producer John Elliot.

        The seven-part serial involved the reception of radio signals from the constellation of Andromeda, which, when decoded, prove to be the instructions for a highly advanced computer. After following the instructions, further signals are received, which, when programmed into the computer, result in the creation of a new lifeform, Andromeda, who takes on the appearance of lab assistant Christine, who had earlier been killed in an accident with the alien-designed equipment.

        In this sci-fi the advanced, tank-grown, alien life form, was made to take the form of an Earth Human (at the second attempt anyway!).

    • Another quick calculation reveals the surprising fact that it would take about 16.4 hours traveling at the speed of light to reach Voyager from the Earth…. and it’s still right at the threshold of the solar system! It makes me realize that in the big scheme of things the speed of light is really slow.

      In reply to #12 by crookedshoes:

      A quick calculation and you can show that this man made object has been averaging about 34880 mph for 36 years (in order to travel 11 billion miles). Traveling at this velocity it hasn’t gotten out of our solar system. At this pace, getting to the next nearest star (Alpha Centauri about 4 light years away) would take 44,327,006 years.

      This makes it (in my opinion) very unlikely that any aliens can get to earth. And, if they did, very very unlikely that they would crash and flounder in our environment. They would have had to set out to get here so long ago or travel at such faster paces than we can, that their technology would appear as magic to us and they would have little opposition to their doing whatever the hell they wanted once they got here.

      • In reply to #39 by Booska:

        Another quick calculation reveals the surprising fact that it would take about 16.4 hours traveling at the speed of light to reach Voyager from the Earth…. and it’s still right at the threshold of the solar system! It makes me realize that in the big scheme of things the speed of light is really slow.

        … and the planets, the Solar-System, the nebulae, the Milky-way Galaxy, the galactic clusters, and the Universe, are really, really, really BIG!

        (- While YEC and UFO thinking, is really, really, really, narrow, tiny, and incredibly limited! )

    • In reply to #13 by paulmcuk:

      Sure it sounds great now. But we’re not the ones who will have to mate with a machine when V_GER comes back to find its creator.

      the take-home lesson from that movie i gao was; if it’s built by americans, regardless of how intelligent it becomes it’ll still go all wierd and religious at some point

  6. Every time I read an article like this I cannot help but marvel that there are still so many people who prefer to believe in bronze age hocus pocus when clearly only science will help us understand how the universe works. Imagining a manmade object leaving our solar system forever is so much more thrilling than imagining the transformation of a cracker or some such nonsense…

  7. Kind of helps put everything into perspective don’t it.

    A tad off subject: the film The Chellenger about the ’89 shuttle disaster and Richard Feynman’s investigation into it was shown on BBC 2 this week, is excellent, and still available for viewing on line.

  8. The nearest star, Alpha Centauri (a binary system) is just a tiny (as astronomical distances go) 4.37 light years away (25.8 trillion miles). There was a conceptual design (Project Longshot — see Wikipedia), done at the US Navel Academy around 1987, that would take 100 years to get there at around 30 million mph.

    • In reply to #27 by MelM:

      The nearest star, Alpha Centauri (a binary system) is just a tiny (as astronomical distances go) 4.37 light years away (25.8 trillion miles). There was a conceptual design (Project Longshot — see Wikipedia), done at the US Navel Academy around 1987, that would take 100 years to get there at around 30 million mph.

      The present frontiers are being pushed by the development of the VASIMR rocket engine which hopefully will evolve into nuclear fusion drives. These should eventually give the sort of high velocities (10%+ of light speed) to use in interplanetary and interstellar travel.

      http://www.adastrarocket.com/AdAstra-Release-July-27-2012-English.pdf

      Demonstration of efficient Constant Power Throttling (CPT)

      The throttling that makes VASIMR® uniquely distinctive from other in-space propulsion designs is its ability to vary the plasma exhaust parameters (thrust and Isp) while operating at a fixed total power level. This technique, called “Constant Power Throttling (CPT),” is similar to the function of a transmission in an automobile.

      Using optimal CPT for different phases of a mission, VASIMR® is capable of increased payload mass and decreased trip times compared to other technologies. Constant Power Throttling is made possible by changing the relative fraction of power going to the first stage (helicon) and second stage (ion cyclotron heating (ICH)) systems and simultaneously changing the rate at which the propellant gas is fed into the engine.

      For high thrust, power is routed predominantly to the helicon with propellant consumed at a relatively high rate, producing more ions at lower exhaust velocity (low Isp). For high Isp, more power is diverted to the ICH while less power and propellant are being fed to the helicon with concomitant reductions in thrust.

      The June 2012 experimental data show that for power ratios ≥ 2, this process can be done without significant loss in efficiency.

      “The recent data represent one more step in the full characterization of the engine and
      validate the assumptions on which our business models are based” said Franklin R. Chang Díaz, Ad Astra’s CEO. “I am proud of our team and of the reliability demonstrated by the VX-200 system. It took approximately one thousand carefully adjusted firings of the engine to determine the optimized performance conditions, with both rocket stages running over wide ranges of power,” said Dr. Jared P. Squire, Director of Research and leader of the experimental campaign.

      ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY

      Short for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, VASIMR® works with plasma, an electrically charged gas that can be heated to extreme temperatures by radio waves and controlled and guided by strong magnetic fields. The magnetic field also insulates any nearby structure so temperatures well beyond the melting point of materials can be achieved.

      The plasma can be harnessed to produce propulsion. In rocket propulsion, the higher the temperature of the exhaust gases, the higher their velocity and hence the higher their fuel efficiency. Plasma rockets feature
      exhaust velocities far above those achievable by their chemical cousins, so their fuel consumption is extremely low.

      ABOUT ADASTRA

      Ad Astra Rocket Company was established in early 2005 to commercialize the technology of the VASIMR® engine, an advanced plasma propulsion system with potential to support an emerging in-space transportation market. The company has its main laboratory and corporate headquarters at 141 W. Bay Area Boulevard in Webster, Texas, USA, about two miles from the NASA Johnson Space Center. Ad Astra also owns and operates Ad Astra Rocket Company, Costa Rica, a supporting research and development subsidiary in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

      The outline planned interstellar use of this type of engine is in a fly-past of Barnard’s Star (Or something better at a similar distance) by the Daedalus Interstellar Probe.

      • In reply to #28 by Alan4discussion:

        The significance of Alfa Centauri at this time is that, according to Wikipedia, some think that because the two main stars are near the same type, size, age, and other characteristics as the Sun, the system could have a planet with life on it. If a candidate is found, there would be a huge push to investigate further and then find a way to get there. At 10% of the speed of light, 45 years at 67 million mph would be a huge improvement over 100 years at 30 million mph; at least some of those who paid for such a mission would get to see results. Even so, there would be some big challenges.

        I’ll check out the company you mentioned.

        • In reply to #29 by MelM:

          In reply to #28 by Alan4discussion:

          The significance of Alfa Centauri at this time is that, according to Wikipedia, some think that because the two main stars are near the same type, size, age, and other characteristics as the Sun, the system could have a planet with life on it. If a candidate is found, there would be a huge push to investigate further and then find a way to get there. At 10% of the speed of light, 45 years at 67 million mph would be a huge improvement over 100 years at 30 million mph; at least some of those who paid for such a mission would get to see results. Even so, there would be some big challenges.

          I’ll check out the company you mentioned.

          On some of the earlier discussions (see link @25) , I put links to Project Icarus. An early stage of this is to send out “Icarus Pathfinder” probes, to use the Solar-System as a gravitational lens, with the probes – (at 550 to 1,000 AU from the Sun), used as the eye pieces of the enormous telescopes thus formed.
          This would scan the nearby stars for Earth size and type planets, to try to select targets for further probes and eventual manned star-ships.

  9. Wait a sec….. I am pretty sure that Voyager was captured by an extraterrestrial intelligence and integrated into a massive craft that returned to earth. According to Persis Khambatta, it was called “Veeger”. I saw the movie. Kirk and Spock managed to stop it from destroying Earth.

    • In reply to #35 by ian.andthatsallyouget:

      Wait a sec….. I am pretty sure that Voyager was captured by an extraterrestrial intelligence and integrated into a massive craft that returned to earth. According to Persis Khambatta, it was called “Veeger”. I saw the movie. Kirk and Spock managed to stop it from destroying Earth.

      That was Voyager 6 and it changed it’s name to V’ger…took the human form of the lovely Lt. IIia as you rightly point out…coincidentally, I was just watching the movie last week, La Pelicuia in Spain…there’s an unweaving the rainbow moment.** }80)**

  10. On one hand, it fills me with happiness and awe of what the human species can achieve, through science and technology, when it’s not busy building hydrogen bombs and bio-chemical weapons through the same means.

    On the other hand, it still make me a bit sad…it’s a reminder of just how vast the universe is, and how little hope we have of ever truly exploring it as a spacefaring species…at least not in my lifetime :)

    Oh well, I could settle for a trip on Mars for my 60th birthday! :P

    • In reply to #37 by JoxerTheMighty:

      On one hand, it fills me with happiness and awe of what the human species can achieve, through science and technology, when it’s not busy building hydrogen bombs and bio-chemical weapons through the same means.

      It is certainly regrettable that politicians give vastly greater funding to weapons technology than to exploratory science, because of their confrontational nationalist mind sets.

      However, we should bear in mind, that space exploration was begun as a cover for the development of military inter-continental missiles, satellite Earth-resource, weather tracking, and communication satellites, were originally developed for military spying and communications, and the shuttle was built as it was, to accommodate large military satellites in its cargo bay.

      Voyagers’ electrical power comes from thermocouples in Radioisotope thermoelectric generators using plutonium238 (PuO2) from nuclear reactors, while hydrogen nuclear fusion rocket engines, may some day take us to the stars.

      The vast sums of money spent on developing military technologies, has at least had some worthwhile applications.

  11. reply to crooked shoes 12

    “This makes it (in my opinion) very unlikely that any aliens can get to earth. And, if they did, very very unlikely that they would crash and flounder in our environment.”

    Yes – Develop light speed technology and then miss the runway on landing? Does not site does it?

    Interstellar travel not really possible in terms times and speeds involved when you read the voyager story.

    We can currently travel around 25,000 mph in space and this does not cut it for interstellar let alone intergalactic travel.

    Bending space time or using a portal / wormhole is the only way for those sort of distances like in contact but the physics is beyond my understanding so I am not sure how possible those things are.

    “Spooky action at a distance” and similar QM weirdness may be manipulated in the future?

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