Published: Mon, October 08, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

NASA’s Voyager 2 Spacecraft is Getting Close to Interstellar Space

NASA’s Voyager 2 Spacecraft is Getting Close to Interstellar Space

As both probes continued their epic journey, on 25 August 2012 Voyager 1 officially crossed the border between our Solar System and the space beyond, becoming the first human-made object to head out into interstellar space.

According to the team behind the Voyager 2, this spacecraft is pretty far away from Earth ad nearly 17.7 billion kilometers or 11 billion miles.

Voyager 2 has been travelling through the outer heliosphere since 2007, when it crossed the termination shock - the point at which the solar wind slows down to below the speed of sound.

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Heliopause is a bubble around the Solar system, formed by the solar wind - a stream of charged particles continuously emitted from the Sun.

Voyager 2 has been traveling through the heliosheath, the outermost layer of the heliosphere, for over a decade. But as the mission went on, and with the successful achievement of all its objectives, mission scientists and engineers at JPL saw it was possible to have them do additional flybys of the two outermost giant planets, Uranus and Neptune. On August 25, 2012, Voyager 1 became the earliest spacecraft to bridge the heliopause and invade the interstellar medium. The team members behind the project explain that Voyager 2 is now in a different location in the heliosheath - outer region of heliosphere - which means that the timeline of its exit from the Solar System will be different than Voyager 1. Another instrument on it also detected a similar increase in higher-energy cosmic rays, fast-moving particles that originate outside the solar system. Voyager 2 has you beat: The spacecraft, launched in 1977, is approaching the edge of the solar system, according to a NASA statement released today (Oct. 5).

"That was about three months before Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause and entered interstellar space", said NASA. However, this solar wind wanes every 11 years in accordance with the solar cycle.

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"We're seeing a change in the environment around Voyager 2, there's no doubt about that", stated Ed Stone, Voyager project manager, at Caltech.

"We're going to learn a lot in the coming months, but we still don't know when we'll reach the heliopause. The only thing I can say with certainty: we're not quite there yet". The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, managed by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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