Voyager 2 Becomes Second Human-Made Ship to Enter Interstellar Space

NASA Voyager 2 enters interstellar space, could become 'the only trace of human civilization'

The news conference will stream live on the agency's website.

When monitoring data collected by Voyager 2's Plasma Science Experiment (PSE) on November 5, 2018, the mission detected a very sharp decline in the quantity of high-energy particles associated with the solar wind. This boundary, called the heliopause, is where the tenuous, hot solar wind meets the cold, dense interstellar medium.

Voyager 2 continues to send data and what is extraordinary about it is that for the first time scientists will have some measure of interstellar space.

Prof Stone said that at the start of the mission the team had no idea how long it would take them to reach the edge of the Sun's protective bubble, or heliosphere.

Voyager 2's older twin, the Voyager 1 spacecraft, crossed the boundary in August 2012.

On February 14, 1990, it swivelled to capture the solar system retreating from its view, including a series of images that revealed our pale blue planet looking like "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam", according to Carl Sagan. Solar wind, the charged plasma particles that come out from the sun, generates this bubble. Prior to this, Voyager 2 crossed a region known as the termination shock back in 2007, where the speed of the solar wind dropped dramatically as it began to encounter interstellar particles and radiation. The fact that the two spacecraft are in different positions in space allows for scientists to retrieve data from different parts of outer space around the solar system.

Unlike Voyager 1, Voyager 2 can only be seen from the southern hemisphere, astronomer Fred Watson said.

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Q. Was the heliopause location where you expected?

"I often get asked, 'So, is this it for Voyager?". In 2013, it became the first spacecraft to leave the heliosphere and cross into interstellar space. That means catching sight of lots of galactic cosmic rays, the incredibly high-energy atoms of a whole range of elements that are careening across the universe at almost the speed of light.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft has now gone where only one other spacecraft has gone before, and it happens to be its twin.

"Voyager has a very special place for us", said Nicola Fox, director of the heliophysics division at Nasa.

Travelling that far from the centre of the solar... "To have the Voyagers sending back information about the edge of the Sun's influence gives us an unprecedented glimpse of truly uncharted territory".

NASA hardware tends to last a long time, but few spacecraft can match the longevity of the two Voyager probes.

Others meanwhile mark the end of the solar system at the edge of the sun's gravitational influence, on the outer boundaries of the Oort Cloud - a theoretical cloud of predominantly icy planetesimals. Estimates of how far the Oort Cloud stretches vary between about 1,000 astronomical units (AU) - one AU is the distance between the Sun and the Earth of about 150 million kilometers - and 100,000 AU.

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