NASA's Voyager 2 Probe Is About To Slip Beyond The Boundaries Of Our Solar System And Into Interstellar Space

Monday, 08 October 2018 - 11:59AM
Space
Technology
Monday, 08 October 2018 - 11:59AM
NASA's Voyager 2 Probe Is About To Slip Beyond The Boundaries Of Our Solar System And Into Interstellar Space
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Composite: NASA JPL/Caltech and NASA Goddard

To boldly go where one Voyager has gone before! NASA is reporting that, according to a familiar increase in cosmic radiation, the Voyager 2 probe may be about to follow in the footprints of Voyager 1 by crossing the boundary of the heliosphere and into interstellar space. 

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

Voyager 2 began it's journey away from Earth back in 1977 and is roughly 11 billion miles from home. In 2007 it entered the outermost layer of the heliosphere, and now based on data recorded by the probe's Cosmic Ray Subsystem instrument, NASA scientists say there's a good chance that it is about to reach the boundary (known as the heliopause) and join Voyager 1 in the history books as the second human-made object to go interstellar. Back in August, the cosmic rays hitting the probe increased by five percent. According to Science Alert, similar increases were detected by Voyager 1 back in May of 2012, and a few months later it crossed over. But that isn't a guarantee for Voyager 2. "Voyager team members note that the increase in cosmic rays is not a definitive sign that the probe is about to cross the heliopause," NASA wrote in an announcement. "Voyager 2 is in a different location in the heliosheath – the outer region of the heliosphere – than Voyager 1 had been, and possible differences in these locations means Voyager 2 may experience a different exit timeline than Voyager 1." 

"We're seeing a change in the environment around Voyager 2, there's no doubt about that," said Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone. "We're going to learn a lot in the coming months, but we still don't know when we'll reach the heliopause. We're not there yet – that's one thing I can say with confidence." So while the timeline is uncertain, Voyager 2 is getting closer to the heliopause and will eventually cross it. For more precise information on how far both probes are from Earth, their radiation levels, and the status of their various instruments, check out the Jet Propulsion Lab's Voyager Mission Status website.

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