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

Recent Israeli Synagogue Attack, a Possible False Flag?
2014 11 21
Dear Friends - I woke up yesterday morning to see a newspaper lying on the kitchen table with the front page proclaiming that five people were slain in an Israeli synagogue after a so-called "Palestinian attack." Some members of the media said that four people were killed, others said five, so it seems like that there was some confusion (or ...
The Michael Brown Shooting, Race Baiting for Political Power and Militarization of the Police
2014 11 21
From Youtube: The evidence clearly shows that Officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown, so why is this case being hyped by the mainstream media and the leftist political establishment?
Detekt: A New Malware Detection Tool That Can Expose Illegitimate State Surveillance
2014 11 21
Recent years have seen a boom in the adoption of surveillance technology by governments around the world, including spyware that provides its purchasers the unchecked ability to target remote Internet users’ computers, to read their personal emails, listen in on private audio calls, record keystrokes and passwords, and remotely activate their computer’s camera or microphone. EFF, together with Amnesty International, ...
New UK spy chief says tech giants aid terrorism, privacy not ‘absolute right’
2014 11 21
Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ The new head of Britain’s GCHQ, the UK equivalent of the NSA in the U.S., said he believes privacy is not an absolute right and that tech giants must open themselves up to intelligence agencies. “GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age,” Hannigan said. “But privacy ...
LOL: Atheist Feminist Pornographer Used as Moral Authority in T-shirt Row
2014 11 21
Dr. Matt Taylor was thrust into the headlines this last week, largely for his lead role in successfully landing a spacecraft on a comet 300 million miles from earth that travels at a speed of 85,000 mph. In short, Taylor and his colleagues pulled off one of the most amazing achievements in contemporary science and space exploration, and in a ...
More News »