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11 December 2018, 12:47 | Brenda Erickson
Video file: NASA's Voyager 2 Probe Enters Interstellar Space
It's official! The Voyager 2 probe has entered interstellar space, making it just the second human-made object to do so. According to NASA, Voyager's Plasma Science Experiment (PLS), which stopped working on Voyager 1 back in 1980, "uses the electrical current of the plasma to detect the speed, density, temperature, pressure and flux of the solar wind", giving scientists their first hint of what's happening inside and now outside the heliosphere.
Scientists discussed the mission's status today in conjunction with this week's American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, D.C. The twin spacecrafts were launched way back in 1977, and now NASA has revealed that Voyager-2 just achieved a milestone that only its sister ship has accomplished before it: entering interstellar space. And, also on November 5, the craft suddenly detected drastically less of these particles.
Voyager 2's older twin, the Voyager 1 spacecraft, crossed the boundary in August 2012. Since the spacecraft could last billions of years, these circular time capsules could one day be the only traces of human civilization. It is moving at roughly 54,000km/h. NASA's DSN, managed by JPL, is an global network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe.
Illustration shows the position of NASA's Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, outside of the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto.
Ms Fox added: "We are fortunate enough to have two very fearless sentinels that have left our heliosphere and are out truly looking at the other side of the boundary". "Two feels like we're becoming a society that's capable of exploring interstellar space".
"It's a very exciting time in Voyager's 41 year journey". No, Voyager 2 hasn't left the solar system. He is mindful that the Nasa probes still have to pass through the Oort cloud where there are comets gravitationally bound to the Sun, albeit very loosely. Until recently, the space surrounding Voyager 2 was filled predominantly with plasma flowing out from our Sun.
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Decades and billions of kilometres.
After launching in 1977 alongside Voyager 1, Voyager 2 visited Saturn and Jupiter and became the first (and only) probe to explore Uranus and Neptune.
They were then steered towards deep space. "You can think of the galactic magnetic field as an array of bungee cords", says Eric Christian from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, a scientist on the Voyager team. The greatest concerns about keeping the probes operating are power and thermal.
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