Voyager Set to Pierce Mysterious Outer Limit of Solar System; 35 Years On

June 28, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Voyager, NASA’s pioneering spacecraft, is still active and has been sending significant data on our solar system since it was blasted off to space in 1977. And now, after about 35 years of eventful journey, this craft has now taken a dramatic turn.

Reports suggest that the craft is fast approaching the outer limit of the solar system.

According to NASA, Voyager is sending very useful data on the final frontier of the solar bubble and is about to cross the boundary of the solar system into interstellar space.

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NASA has also confirmed that it has taken months, or even years, for the vehicle to cross the boundary of the heliosphere of the sun.

On Thursday, NASA published three papers in the journal ‘Science’ suggesting that Voyager is currently approaching the last region of solar space, which is called heliosphere, and that it will then enter the interstellar space.

The journal says that the craft is now more than 11 billion miles closer to the sun (that is, 122 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun) and had reached the magnetic highway on August 25 last year.

According to the report “the magnetic highway, otherwise called the depletion region, allows charged particles to travel in and out of the heliosphere along a smooth magnetic field line instead of “bouncing round in all directions as if trapped on local roads.”

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Lead author of the article Leonard Burlaga elaborates on it saying that after Voyager reached the depletion zone, the magnetic field started to pile up with particles “like cars backed up on a freeway exit ramp.”

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that scientists at NASA detected low-energy cosmic rays that originate from dying stars. In the meantime, researchers also found that  the number of charged particles started to drop off dramatically.

Scientists have stated this phenomenon remarking that the Voyager is currently passing through some sort of foyer, where particles from inside and outside the solar system can easily flow, but the craft has not yet entered interstellar space.

Terming this zone as the “heliosheath depletion region, scientists believe that this region where the heliosheath and interstellar space connect might be a local phenomenon.

We learn that the Voyager could take only a matter of time before leaving the heliosphere and would enter the interstellar space soon. However, scientists have been unable to estimate the exact time of this journey. It is believed that this journey will take a time period ranging from months to years.

NASA has stated that the heliosphere region is at least 8 billion miles beyond our solar system.  Voyager 1 was actually built to remain operational for only five years. But, the craft is still functioning normally and is expected to start losing power by the year 2020 and will completely shut down by 2025.

Voyager 2, the sibling craft of Voyager 1, is now travelling on a different path and is still inside the heliosphere. It assumed to be at a distance of about 9 million miles from the sun.

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