The final frontier: Voyager 1 at edge of solar system
Tuesday 04 December 2012
A US spacecraft launched in 1977 has reached the final frontier at the edge of the Solar System.
Scientists say Voyager 1 has entered a "new region" of the Solar System which could be its gateway to interstellar space.
The border region is described as a "magnetic highway" for outgoing charged particles from the sun and incoming particles from the stars.
"Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun's environment, we now can taste what it's like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway," said project scientist Dr Edward Stone, from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
"We believe this is the last leg of our journey to interstellar space. Our best guess is it's likely just a few months to a couple of years away. The new region isn't what we expected, but we've come to expect the unexpected from Voyager."
Scientists are still gathering data from two instruments aboard the ancient spacecraft that measure charged particles.
Voyager 1 and 2 were launched 16 days apart in 1977 on a "grand tour" of planets including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Voyager 1 is now the most distant human-made object, 11 billion miles from the sun. Signals from the probe take around 17 hours to reach Earth.
Voyager 2, lagging some way behind, is about nine billion miles from the sun.
Both craft carry pictures and messages for any intelligent aliens that might intercept them as they journey between the stars.
New results from Voyager 1 were presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The one chart that shows how George Osborne is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister
The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
Bono's group has made more money from Facebook investment than from all his music
Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
Wikipedia rocked by 'rogue editors' blackmail scam targeting small businesses and celebrities
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...