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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Voyager 1 hits unidentified forces

.. as probe nears solar system’s boundary

 – SPACE – The spacecraft is close to leaving the Solar System and into the uncharted territory of the Milky Way after more than three decades in space. 
Voyager 1 was launched with its twin, Voyager 2, by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1977. Voyager 1 is travelling at just under 11 miles per second and sending information from nearly 11 billion miles away from the Sun. It is about to become the first man-made object to leave the Solar System, although NASA expects it to take between several months and years before it completely enters interstellar space. Voyager 2 will follow later. Ed Stone, the Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said: “Voyager tells us now that we’re in a stagnation region in the outermost layer of the bubble around our solar system. 
Voyager is showing that what is outside is pushing back. “We shouldn’t have long to wait to find out what the space between stars is really like.” Rob Decker, a Voyager Low-Energy Charged Particle Instrument co-investigator from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said: “We’ve been using the flow of energetic charged particles at Voyager 1 as a kind of wind sock to estimate the solar wind velocity. 
We’ve found that the wind speeds are low in this region and gust erratically. For the first time, the wind even blows back at us. We are evidently traveling in completely new territory. Scientists had suggested previously that there might be a stagnation layer, but we weren’t sure it existed until now.” The Voyagers have enough power and fuel to operate until at least 2020. -Telegraph

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