News / Science & Technology

Paper: Voyager 1 Leaves Solar System

Voyager 1 is more than 11 billion miles away from Earth. Some researchers say it has left the Solar System, but that remains a topic of debate.
Voyager 1 is more than 11 billion miles away from Earth. Some researchers say it has left the Solar System, but that remains a topic of debate.

Related Articles

Video Curiosity Rover Captures Martian Moon Eclipse

NASA says the video will help them better understand the orbits of the two moons

Video NASA Maps Global Spread of Chelyabinsk Meteor Plume

Withing four days, the plume had snaked its way entirely around the Northern Hemisphere and back to Chelyabinsk

Kepler Telescope's Planet-hunting Days End

NASA now analyzing data collected by spacecraft over past four years
Eleven billion miles and 36 years after its launch, some researchers say the Voyager 1 spacecraft has finally left our solar system and entered interstellar space.

Researchers at the University of Maryland who made the claim realize it’s a controversial view, but they say their model indicates the spacecraft left the solar system over a year ago — on July 27, 2012, to be exact.

Voyager “is truly beginning its travels through the Milky Way," said University of Maryland research scientist Marc Swisdak, lead author of a new paper published online this week in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The U.S. space agency, NASA, which operates Voyager, has recently published papers saying Voyager 1 is still in a zone influenced by the Sun called the heliopause, something the Maryland researchers call a “fuzzily defined“ transition zone that is “both of unknown structure and location.”

The controversy lies over the importance in the shift of the magnetic field as the probe passes out of the Sun’s influence compared to the level of solar particles and galactic particles measured by the spacecraft.

Swisdak says looking at the magnetic field difference — as NASA is doing — may be the wrong indicator. He says that while you might expect a shift in the magnetic field once outside the solar system, “there’s no reason to think the magnetic fields should have anything to do with one another.”

“What we’re arguing is that a lack of shift is consistent with going outside [the solar system,” he said.

Swisdak says that while magnetic data should not be ignored, the particle data is more compelling.

According to Swisdak’s research, there were successive “dips” in the solar particles with a corresponding increase in galactic electrons and protons. Researchers say that last summer, the solar particle counts disappeared and only galactic particles remained.

“The magnetic data is consistent with [leaving the solar system],” he said.

Swisdak argues that the NASA’s heliopause “is not a surface neatly separating "outside" and "inside."  His research concludes rather that it’s “both porous to certain particles and layered with complex magnetic structure.”

At the edges of the heliopause, Swisdak’s research showed that there is a complex set of nested magnetic “islands” that he says, “spontaneously arise in a magnetic field due to a fundamental instability.”

Within these “magnetic islands,” drops in solar particle counts and surges in galactic particle counts can occur even without changes in the magnetic fields.

Swisdak calls the longevity of Voyager “impressive” considering that is computers are less powerful than the average smart phone or pocket calculator.

Talking about the controversy over whether or not the space probe has left the solar system, Swisdak says that on one level, it’s important because Voyager 1 is providing humanity’s first measurements outside the “cocoon” of the sun.

On a scientific level, he says “a lot of astronomy is done on an indirect basis.”

“This gives us our first [direct] measurements of what it’s like out there,” he said.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1’s primary mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn.  The probe discovered active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and showed the intricacies of Saturn’s rings.

Voyager is also well-known for carrying greetings from Earth on a gold plated phonograph record containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.

Voyager 1 continues to send back data and has enough power to keep operating until 2020. But given its vast distance, that data takes almost 18 hours to get back to Earth.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid