Voyager probe reaches solar system’s outer limits
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Voyager probe reaches solar system’s outer limits

Seattle : WA : USA | Apr 27, 2012 at 6:06 AM PDT
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On its quiet journey through space, one that it has been on for the past three decades now, NASA’s Voyager probe will soon be the first ever manmade probe to reach the outer limits or "tail" of the solar system and at the rate it's going, the first to breach interstellar space.

Sent on its merry way to study the solar system and interstellar space in 1977, Voyager 1 has catalogued and observed much of our solar system, doing detailed fly-bys of Saturn and Jupiter and their respective satellites as well as taking pictures of the entire solar system from a distance of nearly 6 billion kilometers, famously capturing the "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth.

And now, after 35 years of steadfast work, the Voyager 1 probe is close to reach the outer limits of the solar system, apparently to reach its destination within a few months. At present, Voyager 1 is at a distance of 111 Astronomical Units from the sun, according to research published in the journal, Geophysical Letters, a distance, roughly, 11 billion miles from the heart of our solar system.

NASA is still quite not sure as to when exactly Voyager will reach the outer limits of the solar system, perhaps because no manmade craft ever has. A sign that Voyager is at the proverbial "doorstep" of interstellar space is that the solar winds it had been picking up from the sun have nearly died down.

Voyager scientist Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology spoke about Voyager’s journey saying, "When we launched, the space age was only 20 years old, so we had no evidence that things last that long. It’s still going strong," adding that, “The journey continues,” while addressing a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, according to a report on Discovery.com.

Rob Decker, also a part of the Voyager team from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, told Discovery News, "Every time we go somewhere new we find something totally unexpected. We never expected to make it this far.”

Traveling at around 38,000 mph, the Voyager probe is said to be within several months of its target, technically still within the bounds of the solar system as it is still picking up "spikes" of cosmic radiation. At present the probe is so far away from the Earth that it takes radio signals about 16 hours just to reach it.

Meanwhile, Voyager’s consort, Voyager 2 is also on its way out of the solar system, taking a southerly trajectory, hoping to reach interstellar space a couple of years after Voyager 1.

At its present battery life, Voyager will continue to function until 2020, by which time it will be well into interstellar space.

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NASA researchers think Voyager 1 will leave the solar system in about 4 years
NASA researchers think Voyager 1 will leave the solar system in about 4 years
arkar is based in Seattle, Washington, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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