[ExI] Voyager spacecraft still reaching for the stars and setting records after 40 years

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Tue Aug 1 11:11:45 UTC 2017

August 1, 2017
Humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2,
achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and
September. Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate
with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.


Though the spacecraft have left the planets far behind—and neither
will come remotely close to another star for 40,000 years—the two
probes still send back observations about conditions where our Sun's
influence diminishes and interstellar space begins.

Voyager 1, now almost 13 billion miles from Earth, travels through
interstellar space northward out of the plane of the planets. The
probe has informed researchers that cosmic rays, atomic nuclei
accelerated to nearly the speed of light, are as much as four times
more abundant in interstellar space than in the vicinity of Earth.
This means the heliosphere, the bubble-like volume containing our
solar system's planets and solar wind, effectively acts as a radiation
shield for the planets. Voyager 1 also hinted that the magnetic field
of the local interstellar medium is wrapped around the heliosphere.

Voyager 2, now almost 11 billion miles from Earth, travels south and
is expected to enter interstellar space in the next few years. The
different locations of the two Voyagers allow scientists to compare
right now two regions of space where the heliosphere interacts with
the surrounding interstellar medium using instruments that measure
charged particles, magnetic fields, low-frequency radio waves and
solar wind plasma. Once Voyager 2 crosses into the interstellar
medium, they will also be able to sample the medium from two different
locations simultaneously.

"None of us knew, when we launched 40 years ago, that anything would
still be working, and continuing on this pioneering journey," said Ed
Stone, Voyager project scientist based at Caltech in Pasadena,
California. "The most exciting thing they find in the next five years
is likely to be something that we didn't know was out there to be



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