The Voyager 1 space probe, which instrumentation is still working 35 years after its launch, is now at a crucial point of its mission, as it is reaching the very edge of our region in space: the Solar System.
Voyager 1 distance and current position
Voyager 1, now distant 11 billion miles from our home-planet, is close to be the first human-made artifact to leave (forever) the bubble in space that we call Solar System and to which Earth belongs.
With its activity, the Sun changes physical and chemical properties of the space surrounding it. It emits radiation and particles and it has its own magnetic field. By measuring these things, scientists can state that a certain portion of the space within a certain distance from the Sun is typical of it, it’s belonging to it: it’s like a “Sun courtyard”.
But even the influence of the Sun decreases over distance, to evevtually vanish. Therefore, there is some place where particles and magnetic field from the Sun are no longer distinguishable from the ones typical of deep space.
Voyager 1 data
Since Voyager 1 has most of its instruments still working, it can measure those physical quantities and transmit them home.
Therefore, we know that this probe, launched in 1977 is now approaching the place where the Solar System vanishes into deep space.
In 2003, Voyager 1 already reached the zone where particles blown away from the Sun at the remarkable speed of 250 miles per second start slowing down. But during the last months something even bigger happened: those particles decreased sharply in quantity, while particles that fill up the interstellar deep space started to increase.
Well, you don’t need a PhD in Physics to realize what that implies. It’s just a matter of time, and Voyager 1 will by the only thing ever made by humans to sail in deep space.
However, researchers say that at this moment magnetic field’s orientation is indicating that the probe is still inside the Solar System. When MF orientation will change, then Voyager 1 will be definitely out. They believe that the final transition into interstellar space will occur in the following months. Two years tops.
Further readings: the unexpected data
Voyager 1 picture of Earth : “The Pale Blue Dot”
The Pale Blue Dot is a photo taken by Voyager 1 in 1990, from a 3.7 billion miles distance. A pixel in the image, barely visible is the Earth. You can take a look at that here.
Voyager 1 launch
Here’s a video of the launch. It was September 5th, 1977
Voyager 1 is a machine made by humans, the clever apes that populate planet Earth, a small inner planet located inside one of the billions of stellar systems present in our Galaxy. Voyager space probe is now leaving that system and it is the first one.