NASA Confirms that Voyager 2 Is Communicating from the Uncharted Abyss Beyond our Solar System

Wednesday, 06 November 2019 - 9:51AM
Space
Wednesday, 06 November 2019 - 9:51AM
NASA Confirms that Voyager 2 Is Communicating from the Uncharted Abyss Beyond our Solar System
< >
Composite: NASA Goddard/NASA JPL-Caltech
Another manmade spacecraft has "slipped the surly bonds" of the solar system and entered the uncharted abyss of interstellar space. According to ForbesNASA has finally confirmed that the Voyager 2 spacecraft drifted out of the safe confines of the heliosphere.


You might find it helpful to think of the heliosphere as similar in concept to Earth's atmosphere. The Sun generates by emitting charged particles called plasma. This solar wind travels far – up to three times the distance to Pluto – carrying radiation and cosmic rays with it. This atmosphere protects the solar system from greater interstellar radiation (and who knows what else) but eventually it thins out. We didn't have much data about this region, obviously, and being able to study it at all is a breakthrough in itself.


Voyager 1 and 2 are spacecraft that launched in 1977 to study the outer planets. Their original purpose was to study Jupiter and Saturn specifically, sending back findings like active volcanos on Jupiter's moons and giving us our first detailed look at Saturn's rings. Based on these groundbreaking observations – and, probably, the fact that a planetary alignment for launching spacecraft to the four outer planets only happens once every 176 years – NASA decided to continue the mission, sending Voyager 2 on to Uranus and Neptune.


Forty years later these two spacecraft are still in daily communication with NASA. In addition to sending back data, the two little probes also carry with them The Golden Record: pictures, messages, and sounds from Earth. NASA theorizes that Voyager 1 and 2 could last billions of years (unless they become bugs on the windshield of a passing asteroid) which means they will probably be carrying the only remaining record of humanity long after we are gone.


If you want to see where Voyager 1 and 2 are right now, there's an app for that. Eyes on Voyager is NASA's interactive app for following along with the two spacecraft – kind of like interstellar flight tracking. Click here to see where they are now.
Science
NASA
Space