Space probe re­ports from ‘be­yond’ our so­lar sys­tem

● Voy­ager 2 sends its find­ings af­ter reach­ing in­ter­stel­lar re­gion

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY NILIMA MAR­SHALL

Nasa’s Voy­ager 2 has re­ported back with its ini­tial cos­mic find­ings – a year af­ter be­com­ing the sec­ond man-made ob­ject to “leave” the so­lar sys­tem.

The probe blasted off from Earth 42 years ago, 16 days be­fore its twin space­craft, Voy­ager 1, and crossed the outer edge of the sun’s pro­tec­tive bub­ble, known as the he­liopause, on Novem­ber 5 2018.

It en­tered the in­ter­stel­lar medium, the re­gion out­side the he­liopause made up of gas, dust and cos­mic rays, six years af­ter Voy­ager 1 due to its slower tra­jec­tory.

“They’rein theirown or­bit­saround the­galaxy”

Re­searchers con­firmed the space­craft’s jour­ney into the “space be­tween the stars” by not­ing a “de­fin­i­tive jump” in the den­sity of the plasma, made up of charged par­ti­cles and gas, in in­ter­stel­lar space.

It is sim­i­lar to the plasma den­sity jump ex­pe­ri­enced by Voy­ager 1 when it crossed into in­ter­stel­lar space, the re­searchers said.

Among many things, the astronomer­s are look­ing to gain a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how the so­lar winds – the stream of charged par­ti­cles com­ing out of the sun – in­ter­act with the IN­CRED­I­BLE JOUR­NEY: A Nasa illustrati­on of a Voy­ager probe, both of which blasted off from Earth 42 years ago, 16 days apart

in­ter­stel­lar winds, made up of par­ti­cles from other stars.

Dr Ed­ward Stone, a pro­fes­sor of physics at the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and for­mer di­rec­tor of the Nasa Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory, said: “We are try­ing to un­der­stand the na­ture of the bound­ary where these two winds col­lide.”

The astronomer­s be­lieve the probes’ jour­neys, with their dif­fer­ent mis­sion goals and tra­jec­to­ries, give “valu­able clues” about the struc­ture of the Elvis Pres­ley per­forms in con­cert in Mil­wau­kee, 1977

he­lio­sphere, a vast bub­ble en­com­pass­ing the sun and the so­lar sys­tem.

Bill Kurth, a re­search sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Iowa and one of the au­thors of the stud­ies, said: “It im­plies that the he­lio­sphere is sym­met­ric, at least at the two points where the Vo y a g e r space­craft crossed.”

Even though they made it out of the sun’s bub­ble, astronomer­s main­tain that the Voy­agers are still in the so­lar sys­tem be­cause it stretches to the outer edge of the Oort cloud

– com­pris­ing wa­ter ice, am­mo­nia and meth­ane – which sur­rounds the sun.

Dr Stone said the crafts’ plu­to­nium power sources will even­tu­ally stop sup­ply­ing elec­tric­ity, at which point their in­stru­ments and their trans­mit­ters will die.

Dr Kurth be­lieves both Voy­agers “will out­last Earth”, adding: “They’re in their own or­bits around the galaxy for five bil­lion years or longer.

“And the prob­a­bil­ity of them run­ning into any­thing is al­most zero.” The Com­modore PET was un­veiled in Chicago

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