NASA: Voyager 1 has left solar system

Probe in interstellar space, more than 11.5 billion miles from sun
Associated Press
Sep 12, 2013


 Voyager 1 has crossed a new frontier, becoming the first spacecraft ever to leave the solar system, NASA said Thursday.

Thirty-six years after it was launched from Earth on a tour of the outer planets, the plutonium-powered probe is more than 11 1/2 billion miles from the sun, cruising through interstellar space — the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, the space agency said.

Voyager 1 actually made its exit more than a year ago, according to NASA. But it's not as if there's a dotted boundary line or a signpost out there, and it was not until recently that scientists with the space agency had enough evidence to say that the probe had finally plowed through the hot plasma bubble surrounding the planets and escaped the sun's influence.

While some scientists remain unconvinced, NASA celebrated with a news conference featuring the theme from "Star Trek."

"We got there," said mission chief scientist Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology, adding that the spacecraft was "setting sail in the cosmic seas between the stars."

While Voyager 1 may have left the solar system as most people understand it, it still has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years to go before bidding adieu to the last icy bodies that make up our neighborhood.

Voyager 1 will now study exotic particles and other phenomena in a never-before-explored part of the universe littered with ancient star explosions and radio the data back to Earth, where the Voyager team awaits the starship's discoveries.

The interstellar ambassador also carries a gold-plated disc containing multicultural greetings, songs and photos, just in case it bumps into an intelligent species.

Voyager 1's odyssey began in 1977 when the spacecraft and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched on a tour of the gas giant planets of the solar system. After beaming back dazzling postcard views of Jupiter's giant red spot and Saturn's shimmering rings, Voyager 2 hopscotched to Uranus and Neptune. Meanwhile, Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to power itself past Pluto.

Voyager 1, which is about the size of a subcompact car, carries instruments that study magnetic fields, cosmic rays and solar wind.

Last year, scientists monitoring Voyager 1 noticed strange happenings that suggested the spacecraft had broken through: Charged particles streaming from the sun suddenly vanished. At the same time, there was a spike in galactic cosmic rays bursting in from the outside.

Since there was no detectable change in the direction of the magnetic field lines, the team assumed the far-flung craft was still in the heliosphere, or the vast bubble of charged particles around the sun.

The Voyager team patiently waited for a change in magnetic field direction — thought to be the telltale sign of a cosmic border crossing. But in the meantime, a chance solar eruption caused the space around Voyager 1 to echo like a bell last spring and provided the scientists with the data they needed, convincing them the boundary had been crossed in August of last year.

With the new data, "it took us 10 seconds to realize we were in interstellar space," said Don Gurnett, a Voyager scientist at the University of Iowa who led the new research, published online in the journal Science.

The new observations are fascinating, but "it's premature to judge," said Lennard Fisk, a space science professor at the University of Michigan and former NASA associate administrator who was not part of the team. "Can we wait a little while longer? Maybe this picture will clear up the farther we go."

Fisk was bothered by the absence of a change in magnetic field direction.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said he would like to see more data and Voyager 1 "solidly outside for a while."

Voyager 2 trails behind at 9 1/2 billion miles from the sun. It may take another three years before Voyager 2 joins its twin on the other side. Eventually, the Voyagers will run out of nuclear fuel and will have to power down their instruments, perhaps by 2025.



2cents's picture

Now that is amazing! Thank you my engineering friends.....

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

This is how, according to some Star Trek canon scholars, the Borg will be created and the earth threatened in several hundred more years by V'ger!


So thats how Democrats will actually come to power, Their heads are already in space they just need the power to assimulate.


Re: Borg

Hopefully we can count on Species 8472 to wipe 'em out.


The Borg and V'ger are completely unrelated. The Borg were cybernetic, and V'ger was from a world of nothing but machines.


You have a good point there, Hero Zone! And to think we had the lack of sense to include a MAP on Voyager, eh?

Seriously, though, Voyager's travels are amazing. Here's hoping we develop something SOON that will enable us to go out and find her — and PASS her on our way to the stars!


Re: "PASS her on our way to the stars!"

A manned mission with a similar scenario was: "Far Centaurus"


Intriguing stuff. If only autos were made that endured many decades.


They could build such a vehicle, but you would pay a few million.

2cents's picture

I can see the service center help wanted add. "Nuclear engineer wanted to service plutonium engines" : )


ridiculous amount of money wasted.
So where are we going? No Where, WHY. the nearest Star is like 4.5 million light years away. Meaning, it will take us, at the FASTED speed we can go, Thirty Seven Thousand Years to get there (37,000 earth years), GUESS WHAT, there is no planet there.
A very LARGE waste of earthlings money


4.3 lightyears you mean. Proxima Centuri,and Alpha Centuri


It's all relative. Perhaps the universe has expanded more for him/her. :)


Well, everything you mentioned was in fact invented on planet earth. Computers had been invented since the arabicus. But you may mean, the first electric computer type, that would be 1942 Iowa State College, and that seems many years, decades before the first man in space.

2cents's picture

You can follow new ideas and product development here. I subscribe, good read.


You're right. The money WAS wasted! If, of course, you define "waste" as revolutionizing computers and programming, communications, chemistry, physics, engineering, propulsion... Yup! Total waste.


your missing a few stops between here and there. You have been lied to for many years, you refuse to research for yourself, and fooled by the same lies they told decades ago. You are stuck in a time capsule and you can not excape by your own means. Repeat after me, Everything that was ever invented, was invented on planet earth. stop.
Question; if me and you were in space, and your tether broke and you float away into deep space, How long would it take to return to earth?


We Earthling have stupidly put information on our "message in a bottle," which if found and deciphered could potentially lead the aliens DIRECTLY to our planet.

IMO, It's better that we just keep a low profile.

Ya think that having the aliens arrive will be a good thing?

Remember: How "fortuitous" was it that Columbus arrived in America?

We are the Indians, ET is Columbus.

Oh sure; THEY'LL be kind, gentle and benevolent.

(Written tongue in cheek, with a dollop of irony.)




Re: "rubbish"

Good to see your usual shallow thinking.

Have a nice day Pumpkin.


Good to see that you believe in "make believe".


Re: "make believe"

More like speculation.

So you believe that we are alone in this some 28 billion parsec visible universe?


I thought you signed out , Cupcake ?

The Big Dog's back

To bad you weren't a passenger on that contwisted.

2cents's picture

So the Indians had "bottles" back then : )


It didn't matter, the Great Navigator came uninvited.

2cents's picture

"Great navigator"

(Never admitting that he had reached a continent previously unknown to Europeans, rather than the East Indies he had set out for

Wikipedia LOL : )


Re: "Great navigator"

Four voyages there and back on the open ocean without the use of longitude - pretty DAMN exceptional.

2cents's picture

Hey, I was not criticizing him, after all my family came to the US in 1635 with not much more for navigation, I am happy they found New England. I got lost heading from Miami to Green Turtle Cay one year sailing across the Gulf with nothing more than an RDF so I know how that goes my friend : )


Re: "I got lost heading,"

Daniel Boone: "I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days."

See, you weren't "lost," you were just temporarily "bewildered." :)

From my readings of Columbus, the man had an uncanny sense of direction about him.

Regardless, the distance between star systems is very vast. I tend to hold to the idea that the likelihood of us ever making contact with another intelligent species is slim-to-none.

2cents's picture

"uncanny sense of direction"
LOL, I get lost in a housing development! I bought my first GPS in 2001 after getting lost in LA, that was scary to say the least.
I learned one thing from that trip, never go to sea with people you do not know! The skipper was suppose to know the islands but we were headed to Cuba until we came across another boat and radioed them : 0
Onward Soviet, LOL


Re: "never go to sea with people you do not know!"

Good advice.

Reads like it coulda been the script from "Captain Ron." :)

"There aren't any gorillas on these islands!"

2cents's picture

"Captain Ron."

Close, I really hate it when you work with someone who is suppose to know what they are doing in a particular field but show their real colors when the going gets tough. I was a very good sailor, but was not blue water trained. "CURRENTS" LOL


Clowntango has "bottles" too -- and they're all empty.


It really doesn't matter. Any race that has the ability to come pay us a visit can already find us. We've been emitting RF signals for at least half a century like a beacon, and they've already gone further than Voyager ever will.

thinkagain's picture

Technology has come a long way since the launch of these probes. My first team project while working at Honeywell was the Viking Landers whopping 18kb plated wire memory.

Are humans becoming too dependent on technology? Only time will tell.

Darwin's choice

"Can you hear me , Major Tom....."

2cents's picture

Oh the good old days, had an eight track player on the boat and loved jamming to Ziggy Stardust on the beach : )