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

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers 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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid