40,000 Years From Now, Voyager 1 will reach finally another destination otherwise it wide open space – with a whole lot of nothing. We know where the end of the solar system lies thanks to Voyager 1. Voyager 1 was launched before some of us were even born; yet it will outlive us all. Voyager 1 started its journey in 1977, shortly after the first Star Wars was born. It traveled to the far reaches of our solar system before leaving it in 2012. Now more than 11.66 billion miles (18.67 billion kilometers) from the sun, Voyager 1 is the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space. “It is an incredible event, to send the first human object into interstellar space,” scientists Donald Gurnett of the University of Iowa in Iowa City of the event. “It’s not quite the moon landing, but we are where the solar wind ends.”
So far, Voyager 1 has shown us where the boundary between the solar wind and the interstellar wind lies. At this point, the solar wind—made up of energetic particles flowing outward from the sun’s surface to space traveling at 1 million miles an hour—laps up against the cloud of cooler charged particles that make up the interstellar wind. Voyager 1 had been traveling along that boundary since 2004, and when it escaped the boundary, the spikes in electrical and radio waves caused by electrical storms and recorded by the craft allowed scientists to identify where the solar wind ends and interstellar space begins. Voyager scientist Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said: “Nature has finally given us a nice set of solar storms which show us that Voyager is now out in interstellar space.”
“The spacecraft doesn’t feel anything traveling into interstellar space. We can only detect the transition because of its instruments,” says Stone, who was not on the study team. “It has really been an exciting 40 years for the mission, and the next 10 years should be exciting ones as well,” Stone says. “We are still exploring places we have never been.”
“In the same way that Sputnik carried us out of the Earth’s atmosphere in 1957, Voyager has now carried us outside the sun’s atmosphere,” said Voyager scientist Stamatios Krimigis of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “It is quite an achievement in the short time that we have had spaceflight.”
Voyager 1 transmits signals back to Earth using a plutonium battery, which will likely die out around 2025. It will at that time cease to communicate with us at it makes its 40,000 year journey out into the cosmos, where it will eventually past within 1.7 light years of another star. Perhaps that star will be home to another solar system capable of supporting life. Where might Voyager 1 be today? Download this NASA video to fly along.
Source: NASA, Space.com