Serving up this steaming pile of
Celebrity Gossip
Gay Politics
Gay News
and Pointless Bitchery
Since 1995

Voyager 1 finds a surprise at the edge of the solar system

Voyager 1 finds a surprise at the edge of the solar system

BY ERYN BROWN, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2012, 12:25 a.m.

Voyager 1, the spacecraft famous for beaming back striking photos of Jupiter, Saturn and their moons more than 30 years ago, has made still another surprising discovery: the existence of an unexpected zone at the very edge of the solar system.

It had been thought that the NASA probe was already passing through the outermost section of the solar system on its way toward the heliopause — the boundary where the solar wind ends and interstellar space begins. For that reason, the existence of yet another district at our cosmic neighborhood's edge was completely unexpected, said Stamatios Krimigis, a solar physicist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and leader of the team that operates Voyager's low-energy charged particle instrument.

"Nature is imaginative," he said Monday.

Voyager 1, the spacecraft famous for beaming back striking photos of Jupiter, Saturn and their moons more than 30 years ago, has made still another surprising discovery: the existence of an unexpected zone at the very edge of the solar system.

It had been thought that the NASA probe was already passing through the outermost section of the solar system on its way toward the heliopause — the boundary where the solar wind ends and interstellar space begins. For that reason, the existence of yet another district at our cosmic neighborhood's edge was completely unexpected, said Stamatios Krimigis, a solar physicist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and leader of the team that operates Voyager's low-energy charged particle instrument.

"Nature is imaginative," he said Monday.

PHOTOS: Images of space

Speaking to reporters from the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Krimigis and former Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Edward Stone described the newly discovered region as a "magnetic highway" that connects the heliosphere, the bubble surrounding the solar system, to the vast expanse of space beyond.

NASA researchers said in September that they thought that Voyager 1 might pass out of the solar system by the end of the year. As the craft neared the heliopause, scientists expected to detect fewer particles of solar wind and more cosmic rays pouring in from interstellar space. They also expected the magnetic field to change direction.

Since late July, Krimigis said, the intensity of the solar wind particles had decreased a thousand-fold, while cosmic ray intensities rose.

"If we had looked at particle data alone, we would have said, 'We're out! Goodbye, solar system!'" he said.

Although they could tell the strength of the magnetic field had increased, Voyager's instruments never detected the anticipated change in the field's direction, said Leonard Burlaga, a member of the team that operates Voyager's magnetometer from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

For this reason, he said, "there's no evidence we've entered interstellar space."

Rather, the highway region, which is created by a magnetic field originating from the southern hemisphere of the sun, appears to allow particles from within the heliosphere to escape into interstellar space while permitting particles from the outside to pour in.

Gary Zank, a space physicist at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, said he wasn't convinced Voyager 1 was still contained within the solar system and that it would take several months to figure out whether the probe had crossed the heliopause after all.

Different theoretical models predict a different looking boundary, he said. Either way, he said, it was "a major discovery."

"As ever, Voyager seems to have a remarkable capacity for providing observations that suggest ... we're almost right," he said. "It would be nice for the theory and the observations to agree all at once. But it may not ever happen that way."

by Anonymousreply 1812/04/2012

Voyager 1 is about 11 billion miles from the sun, making it the most distant man-made object in space, according to NASA. Its twin probe, Voyager 2, is about 9 billion miles from the sun.

Launched in 1977, they are the elder statesmen of the working NASA fleet. Their scientific instruments, which are fueled by radioactive plutonium-238, will begin powering down in 2020 and are expected to stop operating in 2025.

The Voyagers should pass through the heliopause before then.

Stone, who continues to work as a Voyager project scientist at Caltech, said that researchers at NASA think the magnetic highway might be about 5 to 10 astronomical units thick — that is, 5 to 10 times the distance from the Earth to the sun. If they are right, it would take two to three years for Voyager 1 to cross the region, he said.

Then again, Stone cautioned, NASA hadn't predicted the existence of the highway in the first place, so making precise guesses about when the spacecraft will leave the solar system isn't really possible — nor is foreseeing exactly what the spacecraft might see on the other side of the bubble.

The magnetic field should still shift direction, Stone said. But he said he thought other details would remain a surprise.

"We won't know until we finally actually leave the bubble," he said.

by Anonymousreply 112/04/2012

surprise anal?

by Anonymousreply 212/04/2012

I wish this was TV series. I love this stuff.

by Anonymousreply 312/04/2012

It had to be said, r2.

by Anonymousreply 412/04/2012

Voyager sent back color pics of four McDonald's bragging '100 burgers sold for each mile from the Sun, a Burger Queen and a Wendy's under construction.

by Anonymousreply 512/04/2012

Can someone explain what this means in plain English?

Does it mean we don't have to go to work tomorrow?

by Anonymousreply 612/04/2012

This is the kind of thing I like to bring up when sky-fairy believers harp endlessly about atheists being dry and boring.

What is actually out there and discoverable by science is sooooooo much more enticing and wondrous than "angels" and "heaven" and all that make-believe nonsense.

by Anonymousreply 712/04/2012

PPSM, there is absolutely no conflict between believing in the Divine and believing in Nature/Evolution/Science etc. Particularly in a pre-Event Horizon sense.

by Anonymousreply 812/04/2012

I've never heard anyone say that science wasn't wondrous in its discoveries. Do religious people say this?

by Anonymousreply 912/04/2012

V-GER is looking for the creator!

by Anonymousreply 1012/04/2012

This is why I believe we're not alone and are being visited by space aliens. There's just so much that astronomers and scientists don't know.

by Anonymousreply 1112/04/2012

ALIENZ!

by Anonymousreply 1212/04/2012

Ah but, R7, meet R11. There are nuts of every stripe, my friend.

All the money they spent on Voyager could have been much better spent. The space program became a kind of religion, and though it should have ended it continues on. The data we get from this is completely useless. The money could be better spent on science programs that will actually impact the situation here on Earth. But there are too many pseudo-religious dreamers/ sci-fi nuts who want to believe 'there's something out there.'

by Anonymousreply 1312/04/2012

I am completely thrilled and fascinated by Voyager.

They really knew how to build things back in the early days of NASA.

To think that it took over 35 years just to leave our Solar System. It really gives you an idea of the vastness of this universe. It takes about half our lifetime just to leave our own SS!!

And the solar system nearest to ours is four years away, traveling at the speed of light!

These distances are just unimaginable.

by Anonymousreply 1412/04/2012

I didn't understand that at all. And I have a master's in science.

by Anonymousreply 1512/04/2012

This is very cool stuff.

by Anonymousreply 1612/04/2012

[quote]These distances are just unimaginable.

It really is mind blowing isn't it? A light year is 5.87849981 x 10^12 miles so even at 11 billion miles Voyager 1 is only about 0.19% of a light year away. That's not even a fifth of one percent of a light year and it's been traveling for 35 years! We live on a tiny island surrounded by vast emptiness beyond comprehension.

by Anonymousreply 1712/04/2012

For more than 30 years NASA has been running that probe day and night with perfection. They need to send those guys to Florida where they can't get their voting machines to work right for one day out of every four years.

by Anonymousreply 1812/04/2012
Loading
Need more help? Click Here.