Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are back up to their mischievous ways ever since they were released by that cat in Pasadena California. Researchers at NASA believe that Voyager 1 has now left our solar system and is currently the first, and only, man-made object to do so.
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Apparently, scientists were waiting for Voyager 1 to detect the presence of a magnetic field flowing in a different direction than that of the sun, to indicate to us that it has in fact made it into interstellar space.
However, recent research suggests that this search was misguided. It appears as though the magnetic fields of our solar system, and the one in interstellar space are aligned enough, such that they are at times indistinguishable. Instead, Voyager 1 would have reached interstellar space up to a year ago when it detected a sudden drop in particles coming from the direction of the sun.
However, this is in dispute. Edward Stone – Voyager leading scientist- suggests that the probe is in a previously unknown area of space that acts as a kind of ‘magnetic highway’ – somewhere between the heliosphere and interstellar space.
We appear to have a kind of uncertainty principle in that we know the speed and direction the probe is traveling, without complete knowledge of its local surroundings. Scientists expect that when Voyager 2 reaches the edge of our solar system-currently traveling in another direction- we will be provided with more conclusive information about whether or not we have a probe currently in interstellar space.
Both Probes were launched in 1977 and will begin to lose energy by the year 2020 and be powerless by 2025. Their energy currently comes from decaying radioactive plutonium. After it has decayed completely their onboard instruments will cease functioning and they will gather no further information. Let’s hope we learn something important from Thing 1 and Thing 2 in the next decade.