Voyager 1 Discovers a New Highway


Originally launched from Earth with its twin counterpart, Voyager 2, Voyager 1 has achieved a landmark status by being the most distant man-made spacecraft still in operation since leaving Earth in 1977 (at present, 11 billion miles from the Sun). It was from Voyager 1 that we received the first photographs of Jupiter, the ringed planet Saturn, and many of their respective moons.

On its way out of the Sol System, while heading for the heliopause (the border where solar wind from our sun ends and the interstellar region of space starts), Voyager 1 dropped its latest bombshell: an unexpected “magnetic highway” at the edge of our solar system.

Stamatios Krimigis and Edward Stone, a former Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Director, describe this highway district as a region which links the heliosphere (a bubble that surrounds the solar system) with the expanse of interstellar space beyond it, created by a magnetic field that originates with the southern hemisphere of the Sun that apparently allows particles from within the heliosphere to escape into interstellar space and allows particles from this region of space to pour into the Sol System.

The Voyager spacecraft (1 and 2) are expected to continue sending information back to Earth up through 2020 when their plutonium-based fuel will begin to power down, and are expected to cease operation all together in 2025.

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