June 28

[BBC News]  Ed Stone cannot say when the Voyager-1 spacecraft will leave the Solar System, but he believes the moment is close.  The latest data from this extraordinary probe, reported in this week’s Science journal, suggests it is surfing right on the very edge of our Sun’s domain.

The particles streaming away from our star have reduced to a trickle at its present location, 18.5 billion km from Earth.   Particles flying towards it from interstellar space, by contrast, have jumped markedly in the past year.  It all points to an imminent departure, which would make Voyager the first man-made object to cross into the space between the stars.

“It’s hard to imagine there’s another layer between the one we’re in and the outside,” Dr Stone told BBC News. “Topologically, it makes sense that this is the outermost layer. The only question is: how thick is it?”

Launched way back in 1977, the probe has now travelled so far from home that its constant chatter of data takes 17 hours to arrive at the US space agency’s receiving network. And chatter, it does.

Voyager’s instruments are busy sampling the far-flung environment. This has allowed Dr Stone and colleagues to map the shape and reach of the heliosphere – the giant bubble of charged particles blown off from our Sun.

For the complete article, click here  Image courtesy of the BBC and SPL.

Please share this post...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone