Voyager 1 reaches interstellar space

After a 36 year journey of over 19 billion km

A
a
-

Credit: NASA

Voyager 1 has finally reached interstellar space.


By Elizabeth Pearson

After months of debate, NASA has officially announced that the Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached interstellar space. After reviewing new evidence, the space agency confirmed that on 25 August 2012, after travelling a mind-boggling 19 billion km, the probe became the first man-made object to reach the edge of our Sun’s influence.

NASA received the first indication that the probe had passed through the heliopause, the region where the Sun’s solar wind is no longer strong enough to push back the charged plasma of deep space, nearly a year ago. The probe detected an increase in charged particles but as it had no plasma detector on board it was impossible to be certain if Voyager 1 had reached interstellar space.

A coronal mass ejection in March 2012, a gigantic burst of solar wind and magnetic fields, gave researchers the break they needed. When the material reached Voyager 1 in April of this year, onboard instruments could finally measure the density of the plasma around the probe and confirm its distance from Earth.

But, after 36 years, Voyager 1’s mission is still not over. The probe is expected to keep transmitting until 2020 as it continues its landmark journey into deep space.


Mission timeline

September 1977 – Voyager 1 launched

September 1978 – Exits asteroid belt

January 1979 – Reaches Jupiter

August 1980 – Reaches Saturn

December 1980 – Extended Mission to outer Solar System begins

During 1990 – ‘Pale blue dot’ photo taken

February 1998 – Passed Pioneer 10 to become most distant man-made object from Earth

February 2003 – Entered termination shock, beginning of the edge of the Solar System

During 2010 – Out of solar wind’s reach

25 August 2012 – Reaches interstellar space.


 

 

 

Like this article? Why not:
Student astronomy guide
previous news Article
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013 awards
next news Article
We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here