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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid