Ladies And Gentlemen, We Have Left The Solar System

For the very first time, a man-made object has reached the cosmic abyss beyond the farthest reaches of our solar system. As of today, Voyager 1 is the first spacecraft to begin the endless journey into deep space.

Launched way back on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 has been blasting along towards the edges of the heliosphere at 17km per second, faster than any other man-made object to date. On its way out there, it explored Jupiter in '79 and Saturn in '80. We've known Voyager 1 was going to peace out sooner or later, but now a study in published Geophysical Research Letters has made it official.

From the release:

Thirty-five years after its launch, Voyager 1 appears to have travelled beyond the influence of the Sun and exited the heliosphere, according to a new study appearing online today.

The heliosphere is a region of space dominated by the Sun and its wind of energetic particles, and which is thought to be enclosed, bubble-like, in the surrounding interstellar medium of gas and dust that pervades the Milky Way galaxy.

Voyager 1 isn't headed toward any particular star, but it will be making a "close" (1.6 light-year) flyby past Gliese 445 in just 40,000 years. Don't expect to hear about that though; strategic shutdown of its sensors will start in 2020, and by 2030, there won't be any power left. But there will be a little — albeit lifeless — bit of humanity cruising endlessly among the stars. And that's awesome in the most literal way. [American Geophysical Union via Time]

Update: It turns out NASA is not so keen on saying it "left" the solar system yet.

"It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space. In December 2012, the Voyager science team reported that Voyager 1 is within a new region called 'the magnetic highway' where energetic particles changed dramatically. A change in the direction of the magnetic field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change of direction has not yet been observed."


Comments

    How do they go about strategic shutdown of sensors? Send command and wait 5 days for a response?

    Every so often, humanity does something that doesn't make me wish for its extinction. This is one of those times.

    Congratulations, NASA. Well done.

      In other words; because an object that we have no control over has been hurling through space for the past 35 years, you no longer wish death upon the 7 billion people of Earth.

        You say that with cynicism, but frankly from what I see when I go out of a Saturday night, if everyone was hurling hunks of metal into space it'd still be a less destructive, more interesting use of humanity's time. :P

        An object totally and completely of our collective thought and design. Opposed to this we strip our planet of its resources, kill each other, wipe out entire species, segregate and systematically destroy our selves.

        For those few brief moments, we come together.

        Would the universe be a better place if we didn't exist?

        … and now that feeling's back. Thanks.

        Would you like to strangle my dog while you're at it?

      your an idiot
      if you kill yourself, you will not notice the 7 billion other people on here.

      you know what to do...

        I didn't until now. I just need to make one slight modification to your suggestion.

        Thanks for the help. I'll be in touch …

        Last edited 22/03/13 2:05 pm

    Well... we have now just doomed ourselves, when the Maximals and Predicons start fighting for out planet 3000 years in the past, they will use the knowledge provided on the golden disks attached to voyager there will be an epic battle which will have changed the course of human history!!

    :P

    All hail V'ger and our soon to be machine overlords.

      Exactly what I was thinking as son as I saw it.

      Soon we will have the enterprise - fantastic.

    I did some math a little while ago..

    if you scaled down the Milky Way Galaxy to the size of the Earth, the relative distance Voyager I has travelled is 127mm.. not much more than the width of a hand.

    please check yourself, I would love to know if someone comes to the same answer.

    Battlefield Earth by that Nut job L Ron Hubbard

    Sorry to dissapoint, but NASA doesn't think so. http://tinyurl.com/cc9nylp

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