Did Voyager 1 Leave the Solar System or Not?
2013 03 22

By Sarah Scoles | Discover


The thing about crossing into uncharted territory is that you may not know when, exactly, you have crossed into it. No one needs to tell that to the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is currently at the center of a controversy about where the solar system ends and interstellar space begins.

Today, a press release from the American Geophysical Union initially stated Voyager had left our solar system. Two hours later, though, they issued a correction calling Voyager’s current location a “new region of space,” which is considerably less flashy (but equally scientifically valuable). The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which oversees the spacecraft, weighed in with a press release saying that no, in fact Voyager was still in the solar system.

So why the controversy? What is the debate about the boundary of the solar system? And what is this “new region” of which the scientists speak?

Let’s begin at the beginning. NASA launched Voyager 1 in 1977. Since then, the 1,600-pound (722 kilogram) probe has been zipping away from Earth and toward the edge of the solar system. It is currently more than 11 billion miles from the Sun, which is nearly three times as far out as Pluto is (don’t worry, Pluto; Voyager isn’t a planet, either).

But moving 11 billion miles from home isn’t always enough to free you of its influence. In the case of the solar system, the region where the Sun’s influence dominates is known as the heliosphere. Here, the Sun has blown high-speed, charged pieces of itself into a womb-like bubble.

Since 2004, Voyager 1 has been traveling in a subsection of the outer heliosphere: the heliosheath, where the solar wind slows down in response to pressure from the interstellar medium, which is the combination of winds from other, distant stars. When the influence of the solar wind and the interstellar medium are equal, the solar system ends, or so we say, and actual interstellar space begins. But determining whether or not Voyager has arrived there is no simple task.

[...]

Read the full article at: discovermagazine.com



Related Articles
What Is on Voyager’s Golden Record?
The Voyager Golden Record
The Secret Messages NASA Sent to Aliens


Latest News from our Front Page

BLACKLISTED: The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist
2014 07 30
The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept. The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, ...
Forgetting Herbert Marcuse (19 July 1898 - 29 July 1979)
2014 07 30
Herbert Marcuse, so-called ’Father of the New Left’, died 35 years ago today. Marcuse was a philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist associated with the Frankfurt School of Social Research. He was born in Berlin in 1898 to Jewish parents, Carl Marcuse and Gertrud Kreslawsky. In 1916 he was draughted into the army, but he only worked the stables. Apparently fond of ...
Gallery owner in shock – wants to leave Sweden
2014 07 30
Don’t miss our upcoming interview with Henrik Rönnquist --- Gallery owner in shock – wants to leave Sweden By Ingrid Carlqvist | Dispatch International Eight hours after police stepped into his gallery, apprehended artist Dan Park, and seized at least eight pictures, gallery owner Henrik Rönnquist is still in shock. – Sure, we joked about Dan being arrested, but never in our wildest dreams ...
Whistleblower: Margaret Thatcher knew all about underage sex ring
2014 07 29
Margaret Thatcher was told about alleged sex parties with under-age boys held by one of her closest aides claims her former personal bodyguard. Barry Strevens, who worked as the prime minister’s personal bodyguard, said that he passed on allegations about her confidant Sir Peter Morrison. The former senior police officer said that Lady Thatcher appointed Sir Peter deputy party chairman of the ...
The Absurd, Bureaucratic Hell That Is the American Police State
2014 07 29
“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet ...
More News »