After 41 Years, Voyager 2 Probe Has Left the Solar System

Pat Wise
December 15, 2018

"Voyager has a very special place for us in our heliophysics fleet", Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters, said in a NASA statement.

Nasa wrote: 'In about 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will pass 1.7 light-years (9.7 trillion miles) from the star Ross 248 and in about 296,000 years, it will pass 4.3 light-years (25 trillion miles) from Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

"Voyager 1 crossed this point nearly six years ago so this is now quite a different time in solar activity and now they are in different places - Voyager 1 was up and Voyager 2 is down and to the left in the southern hemisphere". With their initial missions achieved and expanded, the spacecraft have continued outward toward the edges of the solar system for the past four decades; today they are the most distant human-made objects from Earth.

While the probes have left the heliosphere, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have not yet left the solar system, and won't be leaving anytime soon.

That journey could last for years if all continues to go well.

An illustration shows the position of NASA's Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes. The space probe, originally launched in 1977, has traveled well beyond its original destinations.

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. "This is what we've all been waiting for".

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This marks the second time in human history that a human-made object has traveled this far.

Third, the team expected the craft to detect a sudden jump in magnetic field intensity as it crossed over out of the heliosphere, which it also saw.

Voyager 2's new environment is strikingly different from anything it would have encountered before. Proving once more up to the task, the Voyagers were remotely upgraded, and given a new mission.

Both probes carry a phonograph record. Voyager 2 and its sibling spacecraft, Voyager 1, are the farthest-travelled spacecraft, as they are both more than 11 billion miles from Earth, NASA officials said in a press release.

"It's super exciting", said Merav Opher, associate professor of astronomy at Boston University and guest investigator in the Voyager missions since 2005. It'll then brush by two stars, delta Pav and GJ 754, about a hundred thousand years later. After that, it picked up no solar wind flow, indicating the probe's entry into interstellar space. At that point, scientists knew it had left the solar system completely. "Outside the bubble, most of the material comes from other stars that exploded five, ten, 15 million years ago".

Another clue came from the instruments on Voyager 2 that measure hits from energetic cosmic rays.

"It will take about 300 years for Voyager 2 to reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud", NASA said.

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