The wind is no longer at Voyager's back

By Phil Plait | December 13, 2010 3:13 pm

Voyager 1 is one of the most successful space missions of all time. Launched in 1977, it visited Jupiter and then Saturn, providing better close-ups of the two planets than had ever been seen before.

voyager1_heliosheathBut it sailed on, crossing the orbits of both Uranus and Neptune (a sister craft, Voyager 2, actually flew by the two planets). Over all those years, there has been one constant in the Voyager flight: the solar wind blowing past it. This stream of subatomic particles leaves the Sun at hundreds of kilometers per second, much faster than Voyager. But now, after 33 years, that has changed: at 17 billion kilometers (10.6 billion miles) from the Sun, the spacecraft has reached the point where the solar wind has slowed to a stop. Literally, the wind is no longer at Voyager’s back.

There is gas between the stars, which astronomers call the interstellar medium. The solar wind blows out into it, slowing. There is a region, over a billion kilometers thick, where the solar wind plows to a halt, creating a roughly spherical shell around the solar system. That’s called the heliosheath, and it looks like Voyager 1 is now solidly inside it. In fact, it’s been there for four months or so; the scientists measuring the solar wind speed noticed it dropped to 0 back in June, but it took a while to make sure this wasn’t just some local eddy in the flow. It’s not. Voyager 1 now has calm seas ahead.

But the probe is still moving outward at 60,000 kph (38,000 mph). In a few more years it’ll leave the heliosheath behind, and when that happens it will truly be in interstellar space, the vast and nearly empty region between the stars. At that moment it will be the first human device ever to truly leave the solar system and enter the great stretches of the galaxy beyond.

Imagine! It was launched before personal computers were everywhere, before cell phones, before the internet! But it was given a powerful boost by its rocket, and another by the two largest planets in the solar system as it swung by them. And now, in just a few more years, it will have left our nest forever.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Space
MORE ABOUT: heliosheath, Voyager 1

Comments (192)

  1. Kirk
  2. Mitch

    And in 250 years or so, it’ll come back in a massive blue cloud and try to kill us all. So, sweet, everything’s right on schedule.

  3. From there it will eventually be outfitted to complete its expedition by a race of artificial intelligence beings and return to Earth where Cpt. Kirk and Mr. Spock will pretty much destroy it. I’ve seen this movie!

  4. crosis101

    If this doesn’t stir the Spirit of the Explorers that is inside all of us, and make every cell in your body cry out to leave this planet, nothing will.

  5. Number 6

    Phil!….I loved reading that!…A bit of space poetry…Reading it stills the mind wondering what it must be like to be that far out.

  6. “but it took a while to make sure this wasn’t just some local eddy in the flow.”

    Eddy’s Chesterfield sofa has been known to materialize in strange places. Now he’s messing with Voyager?

  7. Ryan

    I still think the craziest thing is that it’s moving at 38,000 miles an hour and it’s still going to take another three or four years until it hits interstellar space.

  8. JR

    I assume we know this because it’s still taking measurements and sending signals back to Earth, right?

    Is there any official estimate on how much longer it will be able to phone home?

  9. TomG

    One slight comment. The first cell phone call was on April 3, 1973, by Martin Cooper. That was clearly before the launch of the Voyagers

  10. Steven Pinker's Awesome Hair
  11. Jim

    …and of course the first visual that pops into my head is at the moment Voyager1 leaves the heliosheath it gets t-boned by a bus.

  12. Jasmine

    …There was a time before the internet?!?

    Thanks for the memories, Voyager.

  13. Over 33 years and still sending back data…they don’t make ‘em like that anymore!

  14. Number 6

    Jim….I have to admit, I chuckled out loud at that one!

  15. Ken

    JR @8: See http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/spacecraftlife.html. That schedule has it phoning home until at least 2025, although with less-interesting information as the instruments are shut down. Although, it will be more interesting than most twitter feeds.

  16. The Oncoming Storm

    Brilliant article! I was 4 when Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter, the news coverage of it and the subsequent Voyager encounters helped to create my interest in astronomy and space travel. Voyager did for me what Apollo did for a previous generation, it’s an incredible achievement that a spacecraft built on the era of vinyl records and of generally naff consumer products has operated continuously for over 33 years and become the first human artefact to leave the Sun’s influence!

    Thank you Voyager for all the memories!!

  17. Kees

    JR, just some 15 years.

    To anyone who has not yet done so: read pale blue dot by Carl Sagan for more awe inspiring Voyager tales. To anyone who has read it: read it again.

  18. BeccaP.

    To Jim (comment #10) – racking my brain for what your “moment it leaves [the heliosheath] it gets T-boned by a bus” allusion is referring to. Google didn’t help. Plz refresh my memory? Thx!

  19. XPT

    I just can’t wrap my mind around that distance, it’s just out there. Wow.

    And to think that its battery is estimated to last until 2025. I actually hope a human spacecraft will be able to reach it in the future.

  20. Katie
  21. Dan Kennan

    Amazing.

    Phil, two questions:

    One, the heliosheath is thicker than the interstellar medium…but how much thicker? I know it’s still awfully thin, but will it slow Voyager just a hair? Or is it such a small change in density that this will basically have no effect other than the lack of solar wind?

    Two, is the heliosheath think enough to degrade the signal…or again are we talking about one extra atom per square kilometer or something like that?

    Thanks!

  22. Levi in NY

    How long before New Horizons overtakes it?

  23. Mike Saunders

    @Levi
    Currently New Horizons is going slower than one Voyager, but going faster than the other, but only marginally.

    Voyager being out there is exciting because we have put it there!

    But it’s depressing because it shows the impossibility of interstellar travel for any being in the universe.

  24. JR

    So, when all is said and done, Voyager 1 will have operated for nearly 50 years?

    That’s really amazing.

  25. RAF

    My god how primitive we are…

  26. Aaron

    Godspeed, Voyager.

  27. HP

    And yet, despite Voyager’s tremendous speed, it will never catch up to the original broadcast run of Gilligan’s Island.

    (What will extraterrestrial observers think of the rise of digital cable and the Internet? That our civilization has struck down by some awful calamity?)

  28. There’s still the Oort Cloud. The space may be interstellar, but the system will still be solar for a while yet. Where by ‘a while’ I mean 20,000 years or so.

  29. AB

    Just a question…What about bow shock? I thought bow shock was still considered to be “within” the solar system…Won’t Voyager be truly be in interstaellar space once it has crossed bow shock?

  30. Michael Swanson

    @28. RAF

    “My god how primitive we are…”

    Only compared to our lofty goals and imaginations. At moments like this, I really believe we are spectacular. Think about it – ten thousand years ago we didn’t have writing or the wheel. Two thousand years ago we barely had any science – most of it done by the Greeks and then forgotten. Just hundreds of years ago we didn’t know the stars were suns or that our solar system was heliocentric. Just look at the concept of individual human rights globally, especially regarding women and children. We have leaped forward, though often dangerously so, and I prefer to imagine where we might be another ten thousand or fifty years from now, rather than lament that we aren’t living in one of Arthur C. Clarke’s imagined worlds today.

    We have a long, long way to go, but we’ve come far. And, my god, I am babbling now.

  31. Heliosheath sounds vaguely kinky.

    As in, “Hold on, baby, while I get me a heliosheath…”

  32. gopher65
  33. The Oncoming Storm:

    Brilliant article! I was 4 when Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter, the news coverage of it and the subsequent Voyager encounters helped to create my interest in astronomy and space travel.

    I guess I’m showing my age. I bought a program called XonVu that let me follow along “live” with Voyager’s encounter with Neptune.

    http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/pg100s95.html
    http://www.sti.nasa.gov/spinoff/spinitem?title=Space+Software

  34. HvP

    This is especially poignant considering that this week marks the 107th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ Kitty Hawk flight.

    Only sixty-six years after the first heavy flying machines left the ground we landed on the Moon, and in another eight years we launched the spacecraft that would eventually leave our solar-system entirely.

    Wow!

  35. Trucker Doug

    Just grappling with the scale. This thing could fit in my living room, and it’s all the way out there. Amazing stuff.

  36. Gary Ansorge

    26. Mike Saunders

    “impossibility of interstellar travel for any being in the universe.”

    I really hope you’re still around when we send our first interstellar probe to the stars at 10 % light speed. I sincerely hope you remember these words.

    Go Voyager. I’ll be a LITTLE bit behind you,,,

    Gary 7

  37. Osomos

    38,000 MPH… What’s that in parsecs?

  38. bullsballs

    so, when it plows into some interstellar space craft, and they figure out where it is from, and they attack and destroy all life on earth…

  39. Gill Avila

    And if HP Lovecraft were alive he’d be gibbering in fear at what Voyager might encounter in the Deep Dark!!

  40. sherifffruitfly

    “Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”

    - Immanuel Kant.

    cya, Voyager.

  41. Keith Bowden

    And yet… and yet… it’s still less than one light day away.

    (Makes me want to reread 2001 Nights

  42. Keith Bowden

    by Yukinobu Hoshino.)

    [Sorry about accidentally splitting the comment in two.]

  43. Dragonchild

    I am in awe. It’s fun to imagine this journey from Voyager 1′s perspective. . . it’s not just ten billion miles from us; we are the closest macroscopic life to it! It’s ten billion miles from home, from us, from warmth, from anything. Voyager 2 is its closest peer yet billions of miles away from its sister. Even if it had the fuel to turn around and reverse its velocity perfectly — which it doesn’t — it would still take another 30+ years to come home. It is truly a very lonely voyager.

    I do have a question, though. . . I’ve seen that diagram of the heliopause before, and it doesn’t make sense to me. I imagine the Sun plowing through the interstellar medium as the planets spiral around it, as that’s the neatest way all the vectors line up. After all, one expects a shock front in front of a moving object and an expansion wave to trail it. So, why the heck are the planetary orbits oriented the way they are in the illustration?? Shouldn’t they be rotated 90 degrees? Is the illustration off or is there some other factor to the heliopause I’m not accounting for?

  44. Chris

    To the folks making reference to the Star Trek movie about V’ger. V’ger was Voyager 6, which was never (hasn’t yet been) launched.

  45. RG

    I got a little bit of a Carl Sagan feeling from you here Phil.. Thanks for picking up his torch.

  46. Linda

    Damn yous, Phil Plait, for being so inspirational all the time! :)

    This totally made my day.

  47. Lukas

    Are my calculations right that Voyager is about 16 light hours out?
    distance: 17’000’000’000 km
    c: 300’000 km/s

    distance/c = 57’000 seconds
    57’000 seconds / 3600 (s/hour) = 16 hours

    (Earth is about 8 light minutes from the sun.)

  48. cde

    I give it 5 years till some Space Pig pulls alongside the earth and gives us a ticket for littering.

  49. Jennie

    To #20 BeccaP… He may be referring to “Waiting for the Galatic Bus” by Godwin a really fun tongue in cheek history of the earth and humans.

  50. alimamo

    So how long until it bonks into the crystal sphere then? ;-)

  51. adhd adult

    “…day after day, day after day,
    we stuck, no breathe nay motion
    as idle as a painted ship
    upon a painted ocean…”

  52. lamda

    godspeed voyager, u made us more than proud

  53. Incredulous

    Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date:

    $1,121,011,500,000 and counting.

    NASA budget 2010:

    $18,724,000

    And they want to cut the NASA budget

  54. shane

    I hope it doesn’t require us to use long-extinct whales to communicate with it upon its return

  55. Brian137

    Very interesting. We get continuous on-site reports from the heliosheath and then, hopefully, the interstellar medium.

  56. G Williams

    Here’s hoping there will be someone there to catch it when it gets wherever it’s going.

  57. Brad

    What’s amazing is that we can still talk to these spacecraft. They were outfitted with Z80 processors and their computer memory has been riddled with cosmic rays all these years, with damaging effect. The intrepid programmers have been able to code around the memory problems for at least one of the craft, if not the other one (I’m not sure). To put things in perspective, a Z80 processor probably wouldn’t be beefy enough to run a modern pop machine today. Amazing!

  58. Menyambal

    I graduated high school in 1977, and Voyager has been travelling ever since.

    I have done a lot of travelling, myself, since 1977.

    Voyager goes further in a hour than I ever did in a year.

    Voyager is far away.

    Thanks, Phil, for a great article.

  59. Brad

    My mistake, it the Voyager spacecraft employed the 1802 processor, not the Z80.

  60. Slight problem with this. The Internet was created in 1969. (That’s the most obvious reason why what Al Gore actually said and what he claims to have said about it was stupid. He’d not have been 10 years old at the time when the ARPA engineers put it together.)

    Voyager was launched in 1977, 8 years after the creation of the Internet.

  61. Dave

    So is it still working? Are we still able to get a ping or a beep out of it? It would be cool if Voyager left our solar system and could still say “hi I’m still alive.” Otherwise it will be humanity’s first interstellar litter.

  62. It’s so wonderful and fascinating that there’s a little bit of our home planet slowly but surely making its way out of the solar system and into the “great unknown.” Thank you so much for the lovely post :-)

  63. Joseph G

    Gobsmacking as always. I’m not sure what’s most amazing – that this machine is still working after 30 years in deep space (hell, how many machines do you know that can work nonstop without maintenance for 30 years in a nice warm garage?), the incredible distance that this probe has brought our eyes to by proxy, the fact that it’s literally leaving the breath of the sun behind and venturing into the still coldness of interstellar space, or the fact that we can actually communicate with the probe over such distances. Does anyone know how powerful Voyager’s transmitter is? I wonder how many nanowatts that signal is by the time it reaches earth?

    Not only that, I’m just realizing that the probe is about 4 years older than I am (from the launch date)! It’s been tooling around in space since before I was even born. And it’s still goin’! :)
    Like so many things in astronomy, every single thing about this is mind-blowing :)

  64. Chris

    As a teenager my family was on vacation in ’77 and by coincidence we found ourselves at Cape Canaveral the day Voyager 1 was to launch. They were selling press box tickets and we got to watch the launch. While it was incredible watching it, I had no idea just how significant that launch was at the time.

  65. Arun

    Bon voyage, Voyager. It has been a truly fantastic journey. Future generations will marvel at this example of human ingenuity. Truly remarkable. I hope it continues to transmit data for decades more.

  66. Joseph G

    @#26 Mike Sanders: …But it’s depressing because it shows the impossibility of interstellar travel for any being in the universe.

    Seems to me it’s more a case of our looking at things from a particular perspective. We’re accustomed to measuring time in fractions of a contemporary human lifetime, but so far as we can tell, there’s no physical law keeping us from developing the technology to keep ourselves alive more or less indefinitely. It seems likely that any sufficiently advanced intelligence will gain this ability eventually, and at that point, it’s just a matter of being patient :)

  67. Joseph G

    @#57 Incredulous: NASA’s budget for the year was 18 million dollars?
    I agree with your sentiment, but I’m guessing you’re missing some zeros there :)

  68. Hawkeye

    40. Osomos Says:
    December 13th, 2010 at 7:07 pm
    38,000 MPH… What’s that in parsecs?

    12 parsecs.

  69. Raft

    But, what if it’s become sentient and feels lonely?

  70. Nathan

    I believe the voyager craft were the last to be nuclear powered before all the treaties were signed preventing nukes to be detonated in the atmosphere. Shame the leaders lack the vision of the scientists and didn’t allow for this form of propulsion to be continually used.

  71. Denzil

    If only it could have left and asked for someone to go with. I call shotgun!!!
    If the world leave all the wars and the terror and put all our minds together we could have been waiting for voyager on the other side of the universe. Would’nt that have been something???

  72. George

    I asked my dad a few year before he died about what he thought most interested him and it was something just like this. So lately I’ve been thinking about how much greater discovery must be after this particular mind is gone. I have zero doubt that there is other life out there, zero. That there might be some other critter out there looking up into their own galaxy and wondering…well by that time they’d ‘ve figured out, like us, that life is crawling on rocks somewhere else out there. Smart enough to be in pool league? ….I really shouldn’t comment on that.

  73. commenter

    I am commenter 73. Has anyone inquired if voyager is headed to our nearest galaxy? where is it going to? Do you care? Andromeda is our nearest. Do you care?

  74. To think that an alien person could see our spaceship (Voyager) streaking across their skyline one day, and then be ridiculed for being a nutter is sort of wonderous.

    I think this is brilliant and not primitive at all. Those “little green men with big eyes” are us!

  75. Jenn

    It’s amazing to think there will be a human made object escaping the solar system in my lifetime. I wonder how it’ll feel when we finally have to stop communicating with the two Voyager space crafts as they finally run out of electrical power in ~15 years? Now that’ll be emotional.

  76. Nigel Depledge

    Incredulous (57) said:

    Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date:

    $1,121,011,500,000 and counting.

    NASA budget 2010:

    $18,724,000

    And they want to cut the NASA budget

    Judging from your figures, it looks like they already did. Have you missed out some zeroes from NASA’s budget there? I get the feeling they get rather more than $18 million.

  77. Nigel Depledge

    Meanwhile, back on-topic…

    So when did the Voyager probes “overtake” the Pioneer probes?

  78. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (67) said:

    I’m not sure what’s most amazing – that this machine is still working after 30 years in deep space (hell, how many machines do you know that can work nonstop without maintenance for 30 years in a nice warm garage?),

    Ah, but at least part of the problem with earthbound machinery is our atmosphere that is 21% full of hideously corrosive and reactive molecular oxygen. Not to mention water, which can readily catalyse certain types of oxidation reaction.

    If you stored machinery under, say, a blanket of argon gas, it would certainly last far longer.

  79. G

    Bye, Voyager. Do us proud!

  80. that’s a great achievement for space research.will open new avenues for research

  81. Georg

    If you stored machinery under, say, a blanket of argon gas, it would certainly last far longer.

    This is why this is done in depots for big
    military machines like tanks or guns
    since decades.
    When a boiler is set to “rest” for months or
    longer, it is filled with argon or nitrogen.

  82. haptiK

    I was born in 1977, making me the same age as this little space craft. Reading this story almost brought a tear to my eye.

    Keep on truckin’ little fella! Our hearts are with you!

  83. John

    If we sent a message in a bottle out there, did “they” also send a message in a bottle? I wonder what the odds are that our bottle will reach another world that can understand our message. Or will our message just crash onto a primitive world where the dinosaurs still rule. Or a world that will not accept other intelligences. I wonder what that last scenario will be like?

  84. Jamie

    Carl Sagan would be so stoked that it’s still going. Good show to the ol’ chaps down at Nasa for building one heck of a craft.

  85. Mick

    Clearly not running windows

  86. jon

    #76 Nigel Depledge asked the question I was itching to ask. How did the Voyagers overtake Pioneers 10 and 11, given the latter two had a few years’ head start? Were they actually moving faster, or on a different course? Or don’t we know, since we haven’t had contact with the Pioneers for several years now?

  87. JupiterIsBig

    To cross genres with an oblique reference
    I wonder of it really is a horcrux ?

  88. jon

    Ah, Wikipedia answered it for me: “February 17, 1998 – Voyager 1 overtakes Pioneer 10 as the most distant man-made object from the Sun, at 69.419 AU. Voyager 1 is moving away from the Sun over 1 AU per year faster than Pioneer 10.”

  89. CJSF

    So, is the solar wind at zero velocity relative to the Sun, or to Voyager 1? If it’s zero relative to Voyager 1, then it’s still moving out at about 60,000 kph, yes?

    CJSF

  90. Phoenix59

    Yes, if I am not mistaken, NASA’s 2010 budget is $18.7 billion, not $18 million. Compared to the cost of the wars, however, it’s still embarrassingly small.

  91. Zarra

    @57
    NASA’s 2010 budget was $18.69 Billion, it’s on their website.

    Gods go with you into the depths Voyager.

  92. Jim

    Has anyone seen, or know of a feed from the Deep space Network where you can get the raw bytes that the Voyagers send home? I’d be really interested to see the engineering data, but the science data would be awesome to see too.

    Jim

  93. Nigel Depledge

    Brad (61) said:

    To put things in perspective, a Z80 processor probably wouldn’t be beefy enough to run a modern pop machine today. Amazing!

    Only because of “feature bloat”, and ever-more complicated processors.

    Efficient computers have very few commands built into the processor, and can carry out more complex operations by careful and cunning programming. Yes, I’m talking RISC.

  94. Nigel Depledge

    Georg (78) said:

    This is why this is done in depots for big
    military machines like tanks or guns
    since decades.
    When a boiler is set to “rest” for months or
    longer, it is filled with argon or nitrogen.

    Hey, I never knew that. Thanks!

  95. 0x4bd39

    In near 2012 it will reach the heliopause.

  96. Lalo Telling

    Osmos @ 40: “38,000 MPH… What’s that in parsecs?”
    Hawkeye @ 72: “12 parsecs”

    A parsec is a unit of distance, not velocity (unless you’re referring to a SF movie/TV show that also misuses the term… Galactica? Star Wars?)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsec

    3.8×10^4 mph =~ 1.23×10^-12 pc/hr

  97. Jay

    Can you imagine if the Voyager probe leaves the heliosheath and it gets blown away like a feather tossed out a car window (while the car is going 60 MPH)? It would be fun to be at JPL and watch the speed indicator climb past any known velocity we have ever recorded. Makes me wonder what it will be like to be on board.

  98. Richard Woods

    @#47 Dragonchild

    I’m not sure which diagram of the heliopause also showing planetary orbits you’re referring to. Is it this: http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/449846main_voyager20100430-full.jpg ?

    As to planetary orbit (ecliptic) orientation relative to axis of the heliopause: The Sun’s motion through the local interstellar medium determines the orientation of the heliopause. This has no relationship to the plane of planetary orbits (ecliptic).

    The north ecliptic pole (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecliptic_pole) is at right ascension 18h 0m, declination +66 1/2°. The solar apex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_apex), the direction toward which the Sun is moving through the local interstellar medium, is at approximately right ascension 18h 28m, declination +30°. There’s about a 40° angle between the two (so, about a 50° angle between the heliopause axis and the plane of planetary orbits).

  99. hi

    “Imagine! It was launched before personal computers were everywhere, before cell phones, before the internet! But it was given a powerful boost by its rocket, and another by the two largest planets in the solar system as it swung by them. And now, in just a few more years, it will have left our nest forever.”

    this line touched me a lot….thnks

  100. RichT

    Surely the Voyager program is one of mankind’s foremost technological achievements of all time. Just thinking about them, 16+ and 13+ light-hours distant, over three decades old and still performing useful science, can move me to tears of pride.

  101. Sterling Augustine

    According to the NASA budget summary:

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/344612main_Agency_Summary_Final_updates_5_6_09_R2.pdf

    The fiscal 2010 budget was $18.686 BILLION, not million dollars.

    He was missing 3 zeroes.

  102. It’s moving apx 10.7 miles/second. At that rate, the trip to the nearest star would take apx 1,700,000 years.

    Need to speed up some.

  103. Tim G

    New Horizons will never overtake Voyager 1, which took advantage of a rare alignment in the Solar System to get a gravity assist from each of our four gas giants. I wonder if anything will overtake Voyager 1.

    I would argue that Voyager was one of NASA’s three greatest landmark programs, the other two being Apollo and Hubble.

  104. And in 250 years or so, it’ll come back in a massive blue cloud and try to kill us all. So, sweet, everything’s right on schedule…..

  105. Daniel J. Andrews

    It seems to me Voyager has passed through the helio boundary a few times now. It expands and contracts based on the sun’s activity. This could just be my memory playing tricks on me, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read similar articles about Voyager in the past (late 80s in Sky and Telescope or Astronomy magazine, for e.g.)

    Shawn (64)–That’s one of those quotes that has taken on a life of its own (sort of like some of the things attributed to Dan Q). See Snopes.

  106. Vaemer-Riit

    Minus Ten and Counting 07 – Pioneer’s Song
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80VU36nKUZc

    If any of you like filk, the rest of this album is available on youtube, just search for:

    “Minus Ten and Counting”

  107. Imagine where it will be and what it will see over the next 33 years. Incredible.

  108. Mike k

    Just to put it in some perspective.

    This is about 15 Hrs 15 min traveling at the speed of light away.

    The distance between the earth and the sun is 93,000,000 miles.
    The time it takes light to travel this distance is 8.333 minutes

  109. Len

    Tim G. comment 110.. I would add the rovers running around on Mars. I think one is still movable while the other is stuck. There original life expectancy was 90 days.

    A round of Tang for Voyager 1, yea I know it was a different program.

  110. MattF

    Tim G: New Horizons will never overtake Voyager 1, which took advantage of a rare alignment in the Solar System to get a gravity assist from each of our four gas giants.

    Nope. That was Voyager 2. Voyager 1 only visited Jupiter and Saturn.

    What’s important in determining speed is not the number of gas giants visited, but what kind of orbit it took past the ones it encountered. Voyager 1 is going faster (with respect to the Sun) than Voyager 2.

  111. Gus Snarp

    I just love that Voyager is that far away and still communicating with Earth. Truly amazing. And they think it’s hard to believe that we landed on the moon… I wonder how long we’ll be talking to it.

  112. Zucchi

    @75, Nathan: “I believe the voyager craft were the last to be nuclear powered before all the treaties were signed preventing nukes to be detonated in the atmosphere. Shame the leaders lack the vision of the scientists and didn’t allow for this form of propulsion to be continually used.”

    Not sure what you’re talking about. I think you’re referring to the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which was signed by the nuclear powers back in 1963. That has nothing to do with Voyager, which, as you’ll note, is not a nuclear bomb. It’s also not nuclear-propelled.

    Voyager’s electrical power comes from three radioisotope thermoelectric generators, so maybe that’s what you’re talking about. RTGs are still being made and used in spacecraft, including New Horizons. They’re not forbidden by any treaty. So, you’re upset about nothing.

    Now, the 1963 treaty does prevent us from creating Freeman Dyson’s Project Orion spaceship. Excuse me — starship.

  113. Tim G

    MattF,

    That’s right, I goofed (thinking of Voyager 2) but Saturn gave Voyager 1 a significant assist and New Horizons will not overtake it. Voyager 1 could remain the most distant artifact for quite some time.

  114. idahogie

    I just hope that when Voyager gets out of the heliosheath that it avoids that big fireball.

  115. the_mystic_s

    Thanks so much for two things, sir:

    Bringing me back to my childhood, and the excitement I felt- visiting new worlds!
    What else could happen? I scarfed up any news I could, fueling my dreams of voyaging through space.

    And thanks for keeping me on top of what’s important, exciting, or just plain wow in the world of science. You provide a valuable service; a most excellent blog.

    Question everything!
    And Happy Holidays!

  116. Paul Pruett

    Good bye and good luck, Voyager! I hope we will follow in your footsteps very soon. And if you should ever come this way again, please look like Peris Khambatta….

  117. frank

    For the umteenth billion time: Al Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet, not even close. Vint Cerf however gives him the credit for making it available to everyone.

    And if it were to come back in 250 years (lets assume ST writers slipped with V6), or some alien civilization follows its trail back to its origin I wonder what they will find. Humans as a species should be dead and gone by then, by its own hand. They will be left to wonder how a planet capable of these tiny steps could not have seen how it was killing its self and corrected.

  118. Daniel

    If anyone’s interested, Voyager 2 updates on Twitter as @Voyager2 and also gives updates on Voyager 1. I haven’t looked to see if there’s a separate one for V1 since I get all the updates I need from V2. Truly is amazing to look out and think of this machine leaving our ‘home’.

  119. Chris Winter

    SPAH wrote (#11): “Twelfth power?!”

    Yes, Vger had a twelfth power energy field! How awesome is that?

    (I have no idea, because no units of measurement were given. Which was by design, of course; the intent was to make it sound enormous and threatening while giving no opportunity to nitpick.)

  120. Chris Winter

    Brad wrote (#61): “What’s amazing is that we can still talk to these spacecraft. They were outfitted with Z80 processors and their computer memory has been riddled with cosmic rays all these years, with damaging effect. The intrepid programmers have been able to code around the memory problems for at least one of the craft, if not the other one (I’m not sure). To put things in perspective, a Z80 processor probably wouldn’t be beefy enough to run a modern pop machine today. Amazing!”

    The primitive technology is an advantage in this environment, because the individual transistors are so large (relatively speaking). The CPU and memory are less susceptible to SEU or permanent radiation damage.

  121. Yimkin

    This article actually brought a tear to my eye. I tip my hat to you Voyager. Godspeed.

    “The meek shall inherit the Earth. The rest of us are going to the stars.”

  122. george milton

    <>
    Or 10,000+ years ago we had advanced non-fossil energy grid managed by the Atlantean civilization which was destroyed sending mankind back to the stone age. Depends on which history books you read.

  123. Chris Winter

    Nathan wrote (#75): “I believe the voyager craft were the last to be nuclear powered before all the treaties were signed preventing nukes to be detonated in the atmosphere. Shame the leaders lack the vision of the scientists and didn’t allow for this form of propulsion to be continually used.”

    Usually, “nuclear powered” means fission. As Zucchi said in #119, the Pioneers use RTGs, which depend on the heat from radioactive decay for their power. RTGs cannot explode, and their use is not forbidden by the arms control treaties.

    AFAIK all spacecraft sent beyond the orbit of Mars use RTGs because the sunlight gets so dim that enormous solar arrays would be needed to supply enough power.

  124. george milton

    Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date:
    $1,121,011,500,000 and counting.
    These figures are suspect.

    National debt when George W entered office
    1 Trillion

    National debt when George W exited office
    11 Trillion

    national debt today
    13 Trillion

    According to my basic knowledge of math the true cost of the war is closer to 12 Trillion and counting (10 under Bush and 2 under Obama who refuses to exit the middle east)

  125. The Student

    I had a professor who was on the team that plotted the Voyager paths before they were launched. He went down to JPL when Voyager 1 had that great fly-by of Saturn and he came back thoroughly excited by the photos that were coming in (the Voyagers had only black-and-white cameras, the colors were recorded when the craft took multiple pictures with different filters). When we asked him about his part of the project, he got a little subdued and finally admitted “We were off course by 600 miles.” This was after a trip of over 150,000,000 miles, a seriously insignificant margin of error!

  126. Chris Winter

    AIUI, one thing the Voyagers are not doing is providing additional data on what’s called the Pioneer Anomaly.

    How to Explain the Pioneer Anomaly?

    Basically, this Anomaly is the observation that both Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 are slowing down more than expected. It is as if some unknown force, of small magnitude, is acting to retard their motion. Gravity is doing this, of course; but the Anomaly is due to something extra.

    Other distant spacecraft, such as the two Voyagers, may also show this effect. But for various reasons it is obscured in their cases by thruster use and other factors. Wikipedia has a decent aticle.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_anomaly

    Understandably, speculative explanations for the discrepancy abound. A good treatment of one is found at Centauri Dreams.

    http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=13651

  127. Gus Snarp

    I’m a little confused now. The NASA site says the Voyager 1 has been in the Heliosheath since December of 2004, more than a few months. The slowing of the solar wind to zero is something else entirely, having to do with how far into the Heliosheath Voyager 1 is, rather than simply that it is in it, which it apparently has been for six years. Then I followed Daniel’s suggestion and checked out Voyager 2′s tweets, where it says that Voyager 1 may be approaching the Heliopause, which would put it farther out than it appears on this graphic, but perhaps that is what the slowing of the solar wind means, that the Heliopause is close?

    I hate to try to correct an astronomer, since I’m pretty ignorant of the subject, but I think my reading comprehension is up to par. Am I understanding this correctly?

  128. rspazy

    For status on “Spacecraft leaving the solar system” – speed, distance, etc – here’s a good site:
    http://www.heavens-above.com/

  129. Kiwitrc

    I bet its out there thinking, ” Did I turn the oven off before I left?”

  130. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Bon Voyager!

    According to the NASA News, the solar wind hasn’t “slowed to a stop” but turned by way of expected turbulence in the heliosheath. I believe the heliopause is called so, because it is precisely the wind pause (stop)!?

    After all, one expects a shock front in front of a moving object and an expansion wave to trail it. So, why the heck are the planetary orbits oriented the way they are in the illustration??

    Don’t you answer your own question, that is the way the system travels!?

    one thing the Voyagers are not doing is providing additional data on what’s called the Pioneer Anomaly.

    Too bad, but the data is still but a data anomaly, a systematic discrepancy between expected and measured acceleration (if that, as you have to eliminate other systematic factors first). Actually, that has been tested once, since a better spacecraft model indeed decreased the discrepancy as expected.

    Tip: when you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras. No one worries about Windows not meeting expectations, no one should wonder about even older tech. :-D

  131. Vast Variety

    Mitch and Flip… wrong Voyager. V’ger was made out of Voyager 6 and Kirk and Spock said that it was launched in the 1990′s. Were safe since we stopped at 2… unless of course NASA sent up 4 more and didn’t tell anyone.

  132. Alok

    Why is the heliosheath not spherical in shape? It looks like some kind of deformed sphere, with the end opposite the satellites being longer than the one in its one.

  133. Keith Bowden

    Daniel (#125) – Thanks for the Twit reference on Voyager 2! I’ve added that and New Horizons to my feed. (I really don’t like Twitter, but I look in from time to time.)

  134. MauiPancakes808

    Ive heard that the signal from Voyager reaching the Deep Space Network is weaker than a watch’s battery? Is it true? Hmm…
    Anyway long live V-ger.. I mean Voyager. Which can we attribute Voyager still working, the radioactive fuel, or those nifty radio thermal generators? Do all probes have those RTG’s onboard?
    And last what happens when Voyager reaches the end of the Heliosheathe? Does it just glide on, or does it have to pass through a rough patch where interstellar wind runs up against solar wind?
    Sorry rambled a bit, must be all the coffee, lol!
    Awesome posting.
    Aloha!

  135. Chief

    Another fact on the voyager is that, by the time the data signal reaches us the power is less than that of a lone snow flake hitting the ground.

  136. Dave

    @131 National debt at the time Bush entered office was 5.727 trillion. Whoever is feeding you your numbers is wrong. Offer him/her some hater-aid.

  137. Brian

    It was called DARPAnet. It was the internet and it started before 1977.

    For whoever wrote this article it’s called editing, or at least Wikipedia….

  138. MAC

    I was actually at the launch of Voyager 1 in 1977, and seeing it go was amazing – especially from the press site. I had yet to see a shuttle launch and had missed the entire Apollo program because my dad refused to drive me from West Palm Beach up to the Cape to see one, so that was my first big rocket, and it really made an impression. Hard to believe it’s been 33 years ago, or more than half my life.

  139. Messier Tidy Upper

    The twin Voyager spacecraft would have to rank just behind the Apollo missions as the second greatest thing Humanity – let alone the USA and Western civilisation has ever done in my view. The Voyager spaceprobes have to hold the record for the greatest – certainly longest – and most remarkable journey’s of exploration Humanity has yet made – and is still making.

    Awesome accomplishment and amazing voyage. Thankyou to the Voyager team(s) for this and the BA for the magnificent write-up of it. :-)

    That noted, it’s still a long way from leaving the solar system if we recall that the Sun’s gravitational grip continues to the end of the Ooort cloud as (#31.) Vagueofgodalming noted :

    There’s still the Oort Cloud. The space may be interstellar, but the system will still be solar for a while yet. Where by ‘a while’ I mean 20,000 years or so.

    Very true. Indeed, there’s still the Edgeworth-Kuiper cometary disk and the realm of the furtherest ice dwarfs such as Eris, Sedna & “Buffy” or 2004 XR190 still to transit.

    Wikipedia says the Oort limit where the Oort cloud ends is :

    about 100,000 astronomical units (15 trillion km, or 1.5 lightyears) from the Sun, which is approximately 1/3 of the distance to the nearest star.

    BTW. 1 light year is = 63,240 AU or 0.30660 of a parsec.

    &

    1 parsec = the distance a star would have a parallax of 1 second of arc
    = 206,265 AU or 3.2616 light year.

    Pluto is 330 light minutes away (Neptune is 246 light min. out) I wonder how far out each of the Voyagers is and how far they will get before they fall silent at last?

    There’s a vastly long way to go – but what a trip & unending adventure! :-)

    @ 19. Kees :

    To anyone who has not yet done so: read pale blue dot by Carl Sagan for more awe inspiring Voyager tales. To anyone who has read it: read it again.

    Seconded by me. :-)

    Voyager 1 is the craft that gave us the solar system portartit formbeyond Pluto’s orbit – including the Pale Blue Dot (Earth) of Sagan’s title.

  140. Messier Tidy Upper

    Oort cloud limit source is : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oort_limit

    Voyager 1‘s wikipage is : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_1

    From :

    http://www.heavens-above.com/solar-escape.asp

    Distance wise Voyager 1 is the furthest Human-made space traveller is currently 115.575 AU* from our Sun with Voyager 2 is 94.017 AU with Pioneer 10 splitting them at 94.017 AU.

    For comparison :

    Pluto’s 248 year orbit ranges from 29 to 49 AU.

    The ice dwarf type planet Eris is currently located at 96 Astronomical Unit with its 557 year orbit taking it from 37 to 97 AU.

    The ice dwarf Sedna which has the longest orbital period of any known object in the Solar System, calculated at between 11,800 and 12,100 years taking it from a perihelion at about 76 AU out to an aphelion estimated at a whopping 960 AU is now around 89.6 AU out.

    Halley’s Comet – a short period one – orbits out to just 35 AU and will get to its furthest point (aphelion) on the 9th December 2023.

    Long-period comet Hale-Bopp has an aphelion of a vastly more distant 370.8 AU and similarly comet Hyakutake (1996) reaches 4367.87 AU at its furthest.

    However, Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) the great Comet of 2007 has an estimated eccentricity over 1.0, suggesting a hyperbolic trajectory menaing it is believed McNaught will leave the Solar System and never be seen again!

    Whether Comet McNaught is going faster than Voyager 1 is something I’m not sure of & will leave for others to determine but, like the Voyagers, McNaught is, it seems, an intersteller wanderer. :-)

    All info. from the relevant wikipedia pages.

    —-

    * For those who don’t already know :

    1 AU = 149.6 million kilometers or 8.3 light minutes- the distance betwixt the Earth & Sun.

  141. @ #78: Has anyone inquired if voyager is headed to our nearest galaxy? where is it going to? Do you care? Andromeda is our nearest. Do you care?

    According to Wiki:

    Voyager 1 is not heading towards any particular star, but in about 40,000 years it will pass within 1.6 light years of the star AC+79 3888 in the constellation Camelopardalis. That star is generally moving towards our Solar System at about 119 kilometers per second.

    After that, one of the probes, 1 or 2 but I think it is 1, will pass within a couple parsecs of the star Sirius. I forget when, but I think it’s on the order of 10^6 years. That’s a long time, here’s hoping we build something faster in the meantime that explores Sirius at a pathetically close distance of 12 light-years sooner than that.

  142. 145. Brian Says: “It was called DARPAnet. It was the internet and it started before 1977. ”

    Close. DARPANet was the backbone of what became the Internet, but it wasn’t the network yet. There was also BITNet, UUNet, and a bunch of others. The project to INTERconnect the NETworks (get it?) and let them all exchange information lead to the creation of the TCP/IP protocol. That protocol is what defines the Internet and it went into general service around 1977.

    - Jack

  143. Walt

    I don’t know, I’m just a 41 year old construction worker who’s fascinated with space. Too much Aasimov and Heinlen growin’ up, I guess. As a kid, my dream job was to be a construction worker in outer space. When I read this article it really put me in awe of the little guy, racing off into space like that. It also humbles me to know what we’ve been capable of doing all this time and how few even noticed.
    Thanks for the great article and comments. I’m still chuckling about the bus btw.
    Good luck little guy, don’t forget to write home.

  144. Nigel Depledge

    Lalo Telling (101) said:

    Osmos @ 40: “38,000 MPH… What’s that in parsecs?”
    Hawkeye @ 72: “12 parsecs”

    A parsec is a unit of distance, not velocity (unless you’re referring to a SF movie/TV show that also misuses the term… Galactica? Star Wars?)

    Geekdom fail!

    It’s a reference to the original Star Wars – the Millenium Falcon was claimed to have made “the Kessel run” in “under 12 parsecs”.

  145. Nigel Depledge

    Tim G (110) said:

    New Horizons will never overtake Voyager 1, which took advantage of a rare alignment in the Solar System to get a gravity assist from each of our four gas giants. I wonder if anything will overtake Voyager 1.

    I would argue that Voyager was one of NASA’s three greatest landmark programs, the other two being Apollo and Hubble.

    I thought it was Voyager 2 that swung by Ouranos and Neptune, not 1?

    I agree about Voyager and Apollo, but not so much about Hubble. After all, there are now several ground-based adaptive-optics telescopes that surpass Hubble’s resolution, each of which cost less than Hubble to both build and maintain.

  146. Nigel Depledge

    George Milton (129) said:

    Or 10,000+ years ago we had advanced non-fossil energy grid managed by the Atlantean civilization which was destroyed sending mankind back to the stone age. Depends on which [fantasy] books you read.

    Fixed that typo for you.

  147. Nigel Depledge

    Alok (139) said:

    Why is the heliosheath not spherical in shape? It looks like some kind of deformed sphere, with the end opposite the satellites being longer than the one in its one.

    It is deformed by the sun’s motion through the interstellar medium.

  148. Procyon

    @18 The Oncoming Storm – I was 4 when Galileo arrived in orbit around Jupiter, so I guess we had the same experience in different eras. Even though I’m much younger than you are though, when I was a kid Voyager pictures were in all the books I read and the videos I watched, so Voyager still has a special place for me.

  149. Messier Tidy Upper

    @146. MAC Says:

    I was actually at the launch of Voyager 1 in 1977, and seeing it go was amazing

    Youtube, of course, has the moment immortalised – albeit briefly – here :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IIOzHBlBXk&feature=related

    at the 1 minute 12 seconds mark.

    This youtube one :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgSaOCzbZsw&feature=related

    on 30 year anniversary – although not showing the launch – is quite good too.

    @141. MauiPancakes808 Says:

    Ive heard that the signal from Voyager reaching the Deep Space Network is weaker than a watch’s battery? Is it true? Hmm…

    Not sure. I’ll have to check that but I do know it is an incredibly faint signal.

    Anyway long live V-ger.. I mean Voyager. Which can we attribute Voyager still working, the radioactive fuel, or those nifty radio thermal generators? Do all probes have those RTG’s onboard?

    The one’s heading out beyond Jupiter certainly do – the ones for tehinner solar system can get by with solar panels. RTG’s are a good relaible and safe option see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator#RTG_for_interstellar_probes

    for more.

    Memorably, some nutty environmentalists kicked up a huge and totally unjustifiable stink about Cassini‘s RTG when it was being launched. Thankfully, the eco-nutters were ignored on think or think of all the wonderful knowledge and gorgeous images we’d have missed out on. RTG’s and nuclear power is pretty much essential for exploring the outer solar system. I think we’ll find we need nuclear power generally here on Earth too – but that’s another story.

    And last what happens when Voyager reaches the end of the Heliosheathe? Does it just glide on, or does it have to pass through a rough patch where interstellar wind runs up against solar wind?

    Far as I’m aware the Voyager and other interstellar spaceprobes will just glide past without meeting any resistence from the heliosheath / heliopause which is more like passing out of a magnetic field or out of radio signal range than any physical barrier. I could be mistaken and I’m not an expert there but that’s my impression. Anyone knowing more feel free to correct me, please.

    Sorry rambled a bit, must be all the coffee, lol!

    No worries about rambling on, that’s what I do all the time! I mean, hey, that’s what the internet’s for, ain’t it?! ;-)

  150. ND

    Here’s a list of various spacecraft and the CPUs they run on.

    http://www.cpushack.com/space-craft-cpu.html

    It appears the voyagers did not run on Z80s but an RCA 1802. But the wiki page on the 1802 says otherwise. So now I’m not so sure.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RCA_1802

    Here’s a more authoritative page on voyager’s computers.
    http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/faq.html

  151. ramadurai

    Salute to those scientists and engineers who designed and constructed these two Voyager spacecrafts which still survive in the cold space and continue their onward journey into Space
    ramadurai

  152. jeff

    MONUMENTAL ACHIEVEMENT, MANKIND HAS LEFT THE SOLAR SYSTEM!

    CONGRATULATIONS, MANKIND SPECIES YOU’VE LIVED 5 MILLION YEARS AND NOW HAVE ACCOMPLISHED THIS! AMAZING.

  153. mike burkhart

    The interesting thing is before Voyager 1 and 2 it was thought that the solor wind stoped at the orbit of Jupiter also it was thought that the moons of the other planets would be just like our own now some are but others are not. By the way that was Voyager 6 that went into a black hole and wound up at the planet of living machines(thought by some to be the Borg homeworld) and returned as Vger and it was not destoryed but merged with Comdr Deker and took off to parts unkown. It was Pioneer 11 that was used for target practess by Cap Klaa, I’ve since heard the Federation is filling a law suit over that.

  154. Chris Winter

    Torbjön Larsson, OM wrote: “Too bad, but the data is still but a data anomaly, a systematic discrepancy between expected and measured acceleration (if that, as you have to eliminate other systematic factors first). Actually, that has been tested once, since a better spacecraft model indeed decreased the discrepancy as expected.”

    So you’re saying the discrepancy will probably be explained by mundane causes like asymmetric heat radiation from the spacecraft’s power source, once all these are thooughly analyzed. I agree that’s most likely. However, the debate has been remarkably long-lived.

    By “a better spacecraft model” I assume you mean the work of Turyshev’s group at JPL. They were able to assign about a third of the deceleration to heat radiation emitted preferentially in the forward direction.

    Here’s a pretty good survey of the proposed explanations:

    http://www.brighthub.com/science/space/articles/40095.aspx

    In addition to heat radiation, the mundane explanations are drag from dust particles; leakage of fuel from thruster systems; or measurement error.

    One I haven’t seen anywhere is collection of dust particles on the spacecraft, leading to increased mass. I recall that something like that jammed Voyager2′s camera mount. They had to turn the whole spacecraft to get the pictures they wanted.

    Measurement error seems far-fetched, considering all the attention this phenomenon has gotten. But the others, acting in combination, might well account for it.

  155. #75 Nathan:
    As others have said, the nuclear ban treaty has nothing to do with the Voyagers’ power source. They are powered by RTGs ( radioisotope thermoelectric generators ), which use the heat generated by the decay of radioisotopes. Nothing to do with fission, as in nuclear reactors, and nothing which could possibly “detonate”. RTGs are not banned by any treaty; nor are they ever likely to be.
    Every space probe sent beyond the orbit of Mars has been powered by RTGs; there is no current alternative, as solar panels are not efficient enough at that distance from the Sun. The forthcoming Mars Science Laboratory will also be powered by them, thereby avoiding the problems experienced by Spirit and Opportunity, whose solar panels were degraded in efficiency due to dust accumulating on them.
    Exactly the same principle, on a much smaller scale, helps to keep quite a few million people alive on a daily basis; radioisotope batteries are used to power implanted heart pacemakers, as they last longer than any other kind of battery.

  156. jmt

    Bad, bad astronomer! Once again you are using obsolete units. The pond (p) and kilopond (kp) should not be used anymore so instead of kilopondhours (kph) you should really use Newton-seconds (Ns). So 60000 kph is about 2.12 TNs which of course is quite meaningless as a measure of speed. And don’t get me started on ‘mph’ (millipondhours)

    P.S. ;-)

  157. Anthony

    so long v-ger… see you in a couple hundred years!

  158. @ #78: Has anyone inquired if voyager is headed to our nearest galaxy? where is it going to? Do you care? Andromeda is our nearest. Do you care?

    Ah, here it is. I found my lost copy of Collins dictionary of Astronomy, where it states:

    In about 40,000 years time, Voyager 1, if it survives, will pass within o.49 parsec of the red dwarf star AC+79 3888 in the constellation of Camelopardalis. By about the same time, Voyager 2 will pass within 0.52 parsec of another red dwarf, Ross 248 in Andromeda (the constellation, not the galaxy), and in 296,000 years it will pass Sirius at a distance of 1.32 parsecs.

  159. Nigel Depledge

    Jeff (163) said:

    CONGRATULATIONS, MANKIND SPECIES YOU’VE LIVED 5 MILLION YEARS

    That’s a bit off base with the numbers there.

    IIUC, the genus Homo has only existed for about 2.5 million years, our species Homo sapiens for less than 500,000 years.

    After all, the common ancestor we share with chimpanzees was alive about 6 – 7 million years ago, and there’ve been quite a few changes for both descendent lineages since then.

  160. mike burkhart

    My mistake it was Pioner 10 Cap Klaa destoryed ,about Vger not being destroyed altho it looked like it ,what happened was that Vger and Comnd Decker merged to become a new lifeform and then left Earth orbit .We need more probes like Voyager we know little about the solar system beyond the planets and the outside were Voyager is now.

  161. Gary Heuer

    Not really truly interstellar as it will still be within the sun’s gravitational pull for the next 25000 years or so. When it goes past pluto it will just be entering the Kuiper belt and then it has to pass through the Oort Cloud.

  162. CB

    You fools! We’re in an alternate timeline where Khan never started his war to conquer the globe in the 90s, Zephram Cochrane is never born, and the Federation of Planets is never formed! So when in our timeline the aliens happen across Voyager 1 (not 6 in this timeline, since 6 doesn’t exist), they’re going to send V’ger our way and there won’t be anyone to stop it!

    We’re doomed!

    The Voyager missions were *still* worth it though. :)

  163. CB

    @ 155:

    I agree about Voyager and Apollo, but not so much about Hubble. After all, there are now several ground-based adaptive-optics telescopes that surpass Hubble’s resolution, each of which cost less than Hubble to both build and maintain.

    There’s nothing on earth that will ever match Hubble’s observational power in the infrared. Adaptive optics can do nothing about light that doesn’t reach the optics in the first place. And do the probes with vastly superior instruments launched in recent times eliminate the accomplishments of Voyager? I don’t think so. I don’t think the Mars Science Laboratory’s awesomeness will make the Mars Exploration Rover’s extended mission less impressive (even though the “90 day lifespan” thing was due to a prediction about dust accumulation that turned out to be wrong, nothing more).

    But really, I’d say we shouldn’t consider Hubble on its own, but rather NASA’s Great Observatories in aggregate. Their contributions to astronomy are enormous and largely irreplaceable. Not to denigrate any of our awesome earth-bound observatories, but the space telescopes are indeed an amazing accomplishment of NASA and a boon to our understanding of the universe. So I put ‘em right up there, myself.

  164. Nigel Depledge

    CB (176) said:

    There’s nothing on earth that will ever match Hubble’s observational power in the infrared. Adaptive optics can do nothing about light that doesn’t reach the optics in the first place. And do the probes with vastly superior instruments launched in recent times eliminate the accomplishments of Voyager? I don’t think so. I don’t think the Mars Science Laboratory’s awesomeness will make the Mars Exploration Rover’s extended mission less impressive (even though the “90 day lifespan” thing was due to a prediction about dust accumulation that turned out to be wrong, nothing more).

    But really, I’d say we shouldn’t consider Hubble on its own, but rather NASA’s Great Observatories in aggregate. Their contributions to astronomy are enormous and largely irreplaceable. Not to denigrate any of our awesome earth-bound observatories, but the space telescopes are indeed an amazing accomplishment of NASA and a boon to our understanding of the universe. So I put ‘em right up there, myself.

    Fair point.

    To your first sentence, I could answer that the James Webb Space Telescope is on Earth at the moment, and it will surpass Hubble in the IR . . . after it’s been launched. But that would be a bit too pedantic, even for me.

  165. SG1DUDE

    I love that we are still infants in learning when it comes to the universe, we still know so little. I just hope we’ll be around long enough to explore it, I guess we’ll have to make our new exploratory vessels nuclear powered like Voyager 1 if we want to make it very far! Good luck and godspeed Voyager 1, I hope you find what we’re all looking for!

  166. glynes

    Those little guys have always been my heroes! What an amazing journey. Still have the official Voyager Team t-shirts given to me by a mission manager at the Goldstone Tracking Station.

  167. Dave

    Oh, come on people. Voyager will come hurtling back to us on some future day with a note tied to it. “No illegal dumping allowed”. I just hope earth can afford the fines and court costs.

  168. As an engineer I worked on both of the Voyager Probes, and many subsequent ones. Those of that era can be very proud of the Voyagers and many of the other probes we had a part in producing.

  169. CaptainHarley

    You see? You see?? [ looks around at all the people under 21 years old ] THAT is your destiny and your destination! [ points at Voyager 1 ].

    I was 34 years old when Voyager was launched. Now I am almost 68 and dying of cancer and diabetes. So now it’s YOUR turn. SIC ‘em! : ))

  170. Frank Gregorio

    OK, as an Astronomy teacher who has to explain these reports about Voyager to my students, I am really upset. The report that Voyager has now “left the solar system”, is just not true!

    The solar system by definition, represents the area of space influenced by the sun’s radiation and gravity. Obviously, any object held in orbit around the sun by its gravity is part of its influence and OBVIOUSLY … part of its solar system. As such, I trust we would all agree that the sun’s “solar system” represents the planets, the asteroids and the comets orbiting it.

    Thus, the Kuiper Belt of objects and the Oort cloud of comets are unequivocally part of our solar system.

    The Oort cloud of comets orbits the sun. Its outer reaches are estimated by most astronomers to stretch to almost 1 light year from the sun. Thus … THUS …. the Voyager spacecraft will not formally, officially “leave our solar system” until they have past the last comet orbit. That is 1 light year away. At a speed of 38,000 mph, it will take over 18,000 YEARS to reach that spot. Only then can anyone consider that it has reached the outer boundary of our solar system.

    That is a LONG time from now, and all these reports of Voyager leaving our system now are untrue and nothing more than media hype!

    Am I missing something here?

  171. Kyle Hatcher

    I’m 17, and if I don’t seen a man made object leave the heliopause in my time, I’m going to be pissed. NASA needs more money! This is amazing though

  172. Jim Roth

    Does Voyager have enough velocity to escape the gravitational pull of the solar system? I’ve been told the answer is “No”. Can someone please straighten this out for me?
    Thanks
    Jim

  173. I know the senior citizen who saved Voyager I from failure. He re-programmed the computer when it was already deployed (in space). He must be a genius, though he now has a form of Parkinson’s, and is hard to understand. His mind is clear, he has a great memory, and is a committed Christian who worked for Billy Graham for eleven years, and Wycliffe for two, before joining JPL. How many forgotten heroes do we have from NASA, or JPL, or some contractor, or Air Force (USAF)?

  174. Jared French

    What about sending a probe like Voyager outward & perpendicular to the solar elliptic plane? If reaching interstellar space is now the goal, why not build a probe with a vast solar sail?

    Is interstellar space really that dark?. Is it not true that the further than an object distances itself from Sol, the brighter the horizon of a billion-trillion sources become?

  175. When Voyager 1 reached about 7 light hours from our Sun and Earth where Pluto hangs out our Sun started to act just like the light does from a normal light bulb and started to look rather small, and when Voyager 1 got closer to 18 light hours our Sun had disappeared from Voyager 1′s camera. Strange? Nah, not really, since I had already calculated it and figured it out before it happened with a normal light bulb.

    Now, what does this tell us about stars’ behaviors and appearances or our entire surrounding with stars? Well, in order for any of the space crafts that are sent out in space, let us all hope that some bright NASA-employee directed any of them towards the brightest and biggest star that we can see with our human eyes, because if we don’t get those space craft straight towards a star, those space crafts might even miss most of stars’ solar systems with planets and everything, because if our Sun disappears before 18 light hours for Voyager 1, then Voyager 1 needs to be within 18 light hours to observe a star like our Sun and in order to reach any of its planets, it needs to fly directly towards that particular star. So, sure, our space crafts might see lots of stars everywhere, but unless they fly straight towards them, they will only pass them.

    I made some calculation regarding The Hubble Telescope and concluded it after seeing its picture of Pluto to have a maximum of 7 light hours more than Voyager 1, which means that the tiniest bright little dot Hubble can see will be within 25 light hours from Earth, unless that star is billions of times bigger than our Sun, which of course could be true.

    Now, I know how all experts and professors and astronomy institutions will now try to find problems on Voyager 1′s surrounding and camera and so on, and sure, go ahead and look for them. If Voyager 1 isn’t evidence enough of that light function the very same way it does on Earth, such as a light bulb does, then I don’t know what else to say. Im just waiting that at least one of the space crafts will travel straight to the nearest star, because then we will soon enter a solar system just like our own.

    (Will there be life out there? Of course, I mean what are the possibilities that universe is not an eternally high-tech developed world where everything possible to be created have already been created, which makes us and our planet…and that is all I have to say, because I don’t want to ruin the mystery for you.)

    Also, when you look at the Voyager 1-movie, then keep in mind that the stars around are sometimes stars that were ahead of Voyager 1 at the start and then around Voyager 1 and then behind, but still closer than our Sun, and some might also be bigger than our Sun. (I think the movie is cut and put together to give a certain expression as well.)

    Best Regards,

    Daniel Ljungström

    Ps. If I would have been a professor or expert in astronomy, which I am, then I would have taken those enormous steps against that multi-billion dollar astronomy industry and agreed with me, or otherwise those poor students in school have to learn theories for ever, and shouldn’t just thesis and theories be placed in Philosophy, such as atoms, which even has a measurement, 0.1 Nanometer, but still we can’t see it or take a picture of it, but that doesn’t hinder people from calculating them all over the world. What happens when we can see 0.1 Nanometer and no atom shows up? Of course will they give atoms the new measurement, 0.01 Nanometer.

  176. Hey, I was hoping I can reach an administrator in charge of this website – I wasn’t able to locate a functional contact form. As of this moment, my employer is hiring copywriters for a number of niches including this one and we’re able to pay up to $25 an article. Grammatical fluency in English is mandatory, and if you know other languages and can translate, we will certainly bump up your pay significantly. On average, our writers begin earning about $1,200 a week. We desperately need to fill our vacancies within the next week at most. Please go to http://earn4800permonth.info and sign up to get a better idea of what we offer. I will be happy to talk to any serious inquiries in the member’s section.

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