Voyager 1 NASA spacecraft nears interstellar space

A couple weeks before Christmas 2012, scientists believed NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft had reached interstellar space, something that was later dashed as readings showed that it was still within the solar system. New data, however, indicates that the spacecraft has finally neared the edge that will take it into interstellar space, according to the space agency.

Specifically, Voyager 1 has found itself within a kind of marginal space that lies between the outermost boundaries of our own solar system but just before the boundary that is interstellar space. This was a surprise to researchers, which led them to initially say that the spacecraft may have finally found itself in the far reaches of space.

The finding that it is not yet in interstellar space came by way of two readings, the first of which showing that the magnetic field around Voyager fell within alignment of the sun. Once the spacecraft does officially enter interstellar space, the magnetic field reading will be different, according to the researchers working on the project.

The second readings that tipped the researchers off was a different reading of cosmic ray particles than what is believed will be seen once the craft reaches beyond our solar system. Given these two readings, the NASA workers say the Voyager is in a previously unknown area where both particles from the solar system and beyond it both exist, but where the sun still has influence.

Thus far, the same researchers have no idea how Voyager found its way into this area.

The spacecraft was launched in the 1970s, and is now positioned a huge 11 billion miles beyond our planet, where it takes the radio signals used to communicate with the ground 17 hours to travel, and another 17 hours for the response to be received. If the spacecraft reaches interstellar space, it wil be the first device made by human hands to have achieved this – unfortunately, the spacecraft will die in 2025 due to a lack of power, leaving it precious few years to make history.

SOURCE: Reuters