Humanities only interstellar ambassadors, the Voyager spacecraft, are on the verge of entering deep space. NASA has previously predicted that Voyager 1 would make the transition to deep space sometime during 2012 or 2013, now instruments on-board Voyager 1 suggest the transition to deep space may be very close.
Voyager 1’s instruments are indicating a steep increase in galactic cosmic rays, one of the indicators that Voyager 1 is entering deep space, leaving the safety of the heliosphere. Protecting the solar system from cosmic radiation the Heliosphere is part of the Sun’s magnetic field and marks the boundary between our solar system and interstellar or deep space.
At 18 billion kilometers from the sun Voyager 1 has already traveled an incredible distance. Communications now take 16 hours and 38 minutes to reach NASA’s network on Earth, while the Voyagers continue traveling at a speed of 17 kilometers per second towards the unknown.
Scientists are keeping a close eye on Voyagers instruments, the exact moment Voyager enters deep space is very difficult to predict, especially since Voyager is the first. The exact position of the edge of the solar system is unclear but another indicator that Voyager has entered interstellar space is expected to be a change in the direction of the magnetic fields around the space craft.
“The latest data from Voyager 1 indicate that we are clearly in a new region where things are changing quickly. From January 2009 to January 2012, there had been a gradual increase of about 25 per cent in the amount of galactic cosmic rays Voyager was encountering,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Voyager 2 was launched first on the 20th of August, 1977 with Voyager 1 launched shortly after on the 5th of September 1977. Both spacecraft were tasked with the same challenge of measuring and documenting the outer planets of our solar system, surveying Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. A task they completed in 1989. With mission objectives met they continue outwards and upwards. Now dispatched towards deep space, in the general direction of the center of our Milky Way Galaxy they continue their journey.
“Voyager scientists looking at this rapid rise draw closer to an inevitable but historic conclusion – that humanity’s first emissary to interstellar space is on the edge of our solar system,” NASA said in the statement.
The Voyage craft have seen many failures and near catastrophes on their long journey, exceeding expectations at every hurdle they have continued on. With one chapter drawing to a close the Voyager spacecraft are going to be the first human emissary to experience deep space and all it contains.
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