NASA’s Voyager 2 probe has left the solar system and entered interstellar space, making history for being only the second man-made object to ever do so.
Voyager 2 exited the heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun – on November 5, scientists have determined after studying data from instruments on board.
It is currently estimated to be over 11 billion miles from Earth, and the Voyager 2 team are still able to communicate with it, although it takes about 16.5 hours for information to travel from the spacecraft back to Earth.
NASA will detail their findings at a news conference at 11 am EST (8 am PST) today at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington.
The spacecraft’s Plasma Science Experiment (PLS) instrument provided NASA with key data that confirmed it has crossed the threshold of the heliopause, where hot solar wind meets cold and dense interstellar medium. It detected a sharp fall in the speed of solar wind particles and hasn’t picked up any solar wind flow since.
Although Voyager 1 crossed the same threshold in 2012, it did so without the PLS.
Voyager 2 is carrying other important instruments that can conduct groundbreaking observations into this border and beyond.
The spacecraft left Earth in 1977 on a mission to study the outer planets, including Jupiter and Neptune. Since completing this initial mission, it has been studying the outer reaches of our solar system.
The device is expected to continue to transmit radio signals as it explores interstellar space until 2025.
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