June 18, 2019

NASA probe nearing interstellar space

08 October 2018, 11:08 | Edward Lowe

NASA probe nearing interstellar space

This graphic shows the position of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes relative to the heliosphere a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto. Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause or the edge of the heliosphere in 2012

Since 2007 the probe has been traveling through the outermost layer of the heliosphere - the vast bubble around the Sun and the planets dominated by solar material and magnetic fields.

"That was about three months before Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause and entered interstellar space", said NASA. The Low-Energy Charged Particle instrument also detected an increase in higher energy cosmic rays.

However, Voyager 2 is now in another region of the heliosphere than Voyager 1.

Voyager 1 experienced a similar spike in cosmic rays in 2012, notes NASA.

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Now, the team is watching for the probe to exit the heliosphere and reaching the heliopause.

"Voyager-2" is the first and only device that have reached Uranus (in January 1986) and Neptune (in August 1989). NASA revealed that the spacecraft is nearing the edge of the Solar System.

Since the end of August, the instruments probe noticed a 5% increase in the number of cosmic rays in comparison with the beginning of August.

However, scientists will learn about this change in cosmic rays only after the probe leaves the solar system.

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American space agency NASA's probe, on a way to interstellar space, detected an increase in cosmic rays that originated outside the solar system, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.

On one side is the heliosphere, the Solar System's bubble carved out by the solar wind. Mission organizers expect that Voyager 2 will quantify an expansion in the rate of cosmic rays as it methodologies and crosses the limit of the heliosphere. This excess could have been a sign that the spacecraft is about to cross the heliopause and enter interstellar space.

The only details known to the NASA team about the Voyager 2 is that it is nearly 11 billion miles (17.7 billion kilometers) away from home. The information they have returned to Earth has revolutionized the science of planetary astronomy, helping to resolve key questions while raising intriguing new ones about the origin and evolution of the planets in the solar system.

"We're seeing a change in the environment around Voyager 2, there's no doubt about that". During the 11-year solar cycle, the Sun reaches both a maximum and a minimum level of activity.

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However, one thing is sure, namely, that Voyager 2 is approaching interstellar space and it would become the second human-made spacecraft to achieve that feat after its twin, Voyager 1.

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