NASAs Voyager 2 Probe Reaches Interstellar Space

first_imgStay on target It’s official! The Voyager 2 probe has  entered interstellar space, making it just the second human-made object to do so.NASA announced on Monday that the Voyager 2 probe has exited the heliosphere — the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.After comparing data from different instruments aboard the spacecraft, mission scientists determined the probe crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere on November 5, according to NASA. This boundary, called the heliopause, is where the tenuous, hot solar wind meets the cold, dense interstellar medium.The probe is now more than 11 billion miles from Earth.“I think we’re all happy and relieved that the Voyager probes have both operated long enough to make it past this milestone,” Voyager Project Manager Suzanne Dodd said in a statement. “This is what we’ve all been waiting for. Now we’re looking forward to what we’ll be able to learn from having both probes outside the heliopause.”The Voyager 2 is no stranger to milestones. Launched in 1977, it is the only spacecraft to study all four of the solar system’s giant planets at close range, and is NASA’s longest-running mission.It explored the Jupiter, its magnetosphere, and moons in greater detail than had the Pioneer spacecraft that preceded it. Voyager 2 also used Jupiter as a springboard to Saturn, using the gravity-assist technique. It was able to observe Saturn’s rings at much higher resolution and to discover many more ringlets.Voyager 2 also became the first spacecraft to visit Uranus, where it discovered 10 new moons, two new rings, and a strangely tilted magnetic field stronger than that of Saturn.And the spacecraft is still the only human-made object to have flown by Neptune. In the closest approach of its entire tour, Voyager 2 passed less than 5,000 km above the planet’s cloud tops. It discovered five moons, four rings, and a “Great Dark Spot” that vanished by the time the Hubble Space Telescope imaged Neptune five years later.Illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, outside of the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto. (Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)Though it launched a couple weeks before its twin Voyager 1, its trajectory took it on a longer route through the solar system. Voyager 1 reached interstellar space in 2012. Voyager 2 also carries a working instrument that will provide first-of-its-kind observations of the nature of this gateway into interstellar space.Mission operators still can communicate with Voyager 2 as it enters the new phase of its journey, but information – moving at the speed of light – takes about 16.5 hours to travel from the spacecraft to Earth. By comparison, light traveling from the Sun takes about eight minutes to reach Earth.More on Geek.com:NASA Advises Avengers on Saving Tony StarkNASA Recorded the Sound of Mars (And It’s Almost All Bass)40 Incredible Images of the Surface of Mars NASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This WeekendScientists Discover Possible Interstellar Visitor last_img

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