Voyager plies a new region of space at the edge of our solar system

Dec 6, 2011
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Way back in 1977 NASA launched the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes and sent them hurtling away from Earth towards the edge of our solar system. It has taken Voyager 1 34 years to reach the edge of our solar system but according to scientists at NASA that is just what the probe has done. NASA has announced that the instruments on the probe are telling the operators at NASA that it has entered into a new region of space.

That region of space is called a stagnation region, which is the outer layer that forms a bubble around our solar system. This is the last region of our solar system before the probe reaches interstellar space. The instruments on Voyager 1 are telling the scientists that the space outside of the stagnation zone is pushing back against our solar system. As of now, Voyager 1 is roughly 11 billon miles away from the sun. The data shows that the magnetic field lines haven't changed.

That is an important marker showing that the probe is still inside the heliosphere, which is the bubble of charged particles the sun moves around the solar system. The magnetic field has doubled in intensity around Voyager 1 over the last year. The sister probe Voyager 2 is 9 billion miles away from the sun right now and will eventually follow Voyager 1 into the stagnation region. Both of the probes are in good health, which is impressive considering the harsh environment they have spent decades in.

"We've been using the flow of energetic charged particles at Voyager 1 as a kind of wind sock to estimate the solar wind velocity," said Rob Decker, a Voyager Low-Energy Charged Particle Instrument co-investigator at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "We've found that the wind speeds are low in this region and gust erratically. For the first time, the wind even blows back at us. We are evidently traveling in completely new territory. Scientists had suggested previously that there might be a stagnation layer, but we weren't sure it existed until now."


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