Voyager 2 Has Entered Interstellar Space

Voyager 2 Has Entered Interstellar Space

NASA said Monday that Voyager 2 exited the region of the sun's influence last month. The spacecraft is slightly more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from Earth.

Voyager 1 was the first in 2012, but its successor has the tech to make unprecedented observations. The fact that the two spacecraft are in different positions in space allows for scientists to retrieve data from different parts of outer space around the solar system.

Nasa has announced that the Voyager 2 probe has entered the very edge of our solar system and zoomed off into uncharted territory. The solar system's actual limit remains contentious, however, with some researchers defining it not by solar winds but rather by the most distant objects thought to be held in thrall by our sun's gravity-comets in the Oort Cloud up to about two light-years away. That likely won't happen for another 300 years, and it will take 30,000 years for Voyager 2 to fly beyond it.

Voyager 2 launched a couple weeks before Voyager 1, and both have long outlived their original five-year missions to study Jupiter and Saturn.

The spacecraft, which launched August 20, 1977, at a cost of $895 million, was primarily created to study the outer planets, notably Jupiter and Saturn. The PSE instrument stopped working for Voyager 1 in 1980, however, so Voyager 2 has been able to gather more in-depth information than its twin during this historic moment. They were to forge their way through our Sun's domain, and become the first human-made objects to break through into interstellar space.

Voyager 2 is officially Nasa's longest-running mission.

"Our studies start at the sun and extend out to everything the solar wind touches", says Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA.

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Welcome to the history books, Voyager 2.

Voyager 2's new interstellar status is based on data from its Plasma Science Experiment (PLS), which logged a decrease in particles around the spacecraft that had been ejected from our sun. A single AU is equal to the distance from Earth to the sun, or 93 million miles.

As the power levels continue to decline, project officials will have to turn off some of the instruments on each spacecraft.

"I think we're all happy and relieved that the Voyager probes have both operated long enough to make it past this milestone", Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in the release.

The Voyager probes aren't just interesting for their longevity, they also have a special payload onboard. "This is what we've all been waiting for".

Each probe contains a golden record embedded with snapshots of Earth's sounds, images and messages in the hope that another civilization may someday chance upon it and learn about human civilization.

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