Voyager 2 Has Officially Become the Second Spacecraft to Cross Into Interstellar Space!

Monday, 10 December 2018 - 1:08PM
NASA
Space
Technology
Monday, 10 December 2018 - 1:08PM
Voyager 2 Has Officially Become the Second Spacecraft to Cross Into Interstellar Space!
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Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Back in 2012, Voyager 1 boldly went where no spacecraft has ever gone before—it crossed out of the influence of our Sun and into the great expanse between star systems. Now, Voyager 2 has followed it, according to NASA. This makes Voyager 2 the second man-made object to enter interstellar space.

After launching in 1977 alongside Voyager 1, Voyager 2 visited Saturn and Jupiter and became the first (and only) probe to explore Uranus and Neptune. After visiting all four gas giants, it followed Voyager 1 on a path to interstellar space, carrying one of two of the famous Golden Records, which contain messages "intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials," along with sounds and music from Earth (including Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," because aliens need to understand rock 'n roll).

NASA has confirmed that Voyager 2 crossed the heliopause, the boundary of the Sun's solar wind, though there are a few other conflicting ways to measure where exactly the Sun's influence (and, by extension, the Solar System) "ends." Either way, Voyager is far beyond Pluto by this point, and very close to the distance that marked Voyager 1's entrance into interstellar space (Voyager 1 officially crossed over at 121 AU, while Voyager 2 has traveled 119 AU).

According to Ed Stone, a project scientist for the Voyager Mission, the data taken from Voyager 2 has been markedly different from Voyager 1. "Very different times, very different places, similar in characteristics. The next months ahead could be very revealing as well...More to come!"

One of the big causes for excitement is that an instrument called Plasma Science Experiment, which malfunctioned aboard Voyager 1, is still functional on Voyager 2, which will allow it to send back new data on what it's like in the space between stars.

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