Nasa Voyager II enters interstellar space at edge of our solar system

Voyager 2 Interstellar Space

Voyager 2 Interstellar Space NASA

"To have the Voyagers sending back information about the edge of the Sun's influence gives us an unprecedented glimpse of truly uncharted territory", Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement.

Both probes still carry Golden Records containing pictures, messages and sounds from Earth because the spacecraft could outlast human civilization by billions of years. Voyager 1 reached interstellar space in 2012. Although NASA's Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft launched before the Voyagers paved the way on similar journeys beyond the Asteroid Belt to the outer solar system, eventually leading into interstellar space, they are no longer communicating with Earth.

Neither probe has left our solar system, however, and won't be doing so anytime soon.

About 61,000 years from now, Voyager 2 will pass beyond the Oort Cloud-a large, diffuse swarm of icy objects that is thought to extend as far as 200,000 times farther from the sun than Earth, says Wesleyan University's Seth Redfield. The Voyager 2's arrival in interstellar space comes a handful of years after Voyager 1's own similar achievement. A similar tool on Voyager 1 stopped working in 1980, before it left the heliosphere, officials said. No, Voyager 2 hasn't left the solar system.

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Reaching interstellar space isn't just something that happens in science fiction movies. "This is what we've all been waiting for". That makes it the second human artifact to leave our home behind to drift between the stars.

But the sun also creates a powerful magnetic field that helps constantly shoot particles of hot gas into space. Their five-year lifespans have stretched to 41 years, making Voyager 2 NASA's longest running mission. It was this instrument that observed a "steep decline" in solar wind particle speeds on November 5, this being "the most compelling evidence" of entering interstellar space, according to NASA.

But once the Voyagers' main missions ended, the nuclear-powered robots kept going.

Launched 16 days apart in 1977, the two spacecraft completed their original mission - observing Jupiter and Saturn - in the early 1980s before turning their focus to Uranus, Neptune and beyond. Each alien solar system is nestled in its own equivalent of a heliosphere, pushing out against its own local interstellar space. It'll then brush by two stars, delta Pav and GJ 754, about a hundred thousand years later.

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"It's super exciting", said Merav Opher, associate professor of astronomy at Boston University and guest investigator in the Voyager missions since 2005.

Three other instruments measured corresponding changes in cosmic rays, low-energy particles and magnetic field strength.

By that estimate, it will take another 300 years for the spacecraft to reach the inner Oort Cloud, and as many as 30,000 years to fly past it.

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