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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs