Category Archives: Exploration

How I ate for free in Finland

Reindeer meat

Being offered a free meal by the Finnish State is possible, especially when it happens by chance.

I was driving in a low-populated area at noon. I looked for the nearest restaurant in my GPS navigator’s database. According to it, there was only one within a ray of 30 miles and it was a few kilometers ahead.

Following its indication I entered a village which was mostly made of small yellow and red family houses, with a few apartment buildings. The navigator brought me into a parking in front of what seemed to be the biggest building in the village. Quite an anonymous block, with a few signs, all of them in Finnish language.
However there were people getting in and out through a small automatic door. Maybe a shopping mall sized accordingly with the village? We’ll see”, I thought.

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Out in the middle of nowhere, up north in winter

As soon as I jumped into the car at the airport I saw a green cable placed on the passenger’s seat.
When I reached my hotel, I noticed that every parking bay had a stake with a box on top of it. Inside the box, a power socket and a settable timer. The green cable is used to connect the box to a small socket on the front of the car. That will provide power to maintain engine and battery warm. My car has also studded tires.

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A tale of Antarctica

A Twin Otter in Antarctica

We are sitting in the small plane. The seats are narrow and covered in coarse grey fabric. The runaway is an incline on the snow on an elevated glacier near Dumont D’Urville’s French base, in the Adelie Land, East Antarctica.

It is December 2007 and one of my biggest dreams in life has just come true. After years of work and wait, I’m finally in Antarctica. The previous day we jumped over the snow of the continent — for me it was the very first time — and we slept in a small base. Today, French fellas drove us uphill, to the runaway. From here we are looking at an astonishing panorama.

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Voyager 1 Space Probe to be the first human artifact to reach the end of the Solar System

The Solar System Bubble, the Heliosphere, with Voyager 1 and 2 positions - Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Solar System Bubble, the Heliosphere, with Voyager 1 and 2 positions – Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.

Artist's rendering of Voyager 1 - Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Artist’s rendering of Voyager 1 – Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Further readings: the unexpected data

While the magnetic field direction is unchanged, its magnitude is increasing. That was totally unexpected. More on that here, or in Nasa’s website.

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.

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