Nanor Pontigian Science & Tech Editor, The Pawprint
Voyager 2, launched into space 40 years ago, just recently sent back a faint signal after crossing the edge of the sun’s realm, and the start of the interstellar space.
Voyager 2 is known to be the second craft to ever traft beyond the heliosphere, which consists of charged particles streaming outwards from the Sun. Even though Voyager 2 was in fact set off before Voyager 1, it still took 6 more years to enter the interstellar space compared to its twin. Eventually, the NASA craft was able to take close-up images of Uranus and Neptune.
Despite the success that it has accomplished, NASA scientists had no idea that it would even survive at this landmark.
Professor Ed Stone working in the California Institute of Technology, said, “ We didn’t know how large the bubble was and we certainly didn’t know that the spacecraft could live long enough to reach the edge of the bubble and enter interstellar space”
Prof. Stone seems to be quite at the expert on this matter, working on this project since 1977, even before the craft was launched.
Now, scientists have a reassurance of measurements thanks to the Voyager 2 since an accident, led to the breaking of the instruments that were made to measure the plasma in Voyager 1.
According to the results, the heliosphere was much sharper and thinner, the second time around, compared to Voyager’s 1 journey.
The shape of the Heliosphere has also been identified as something like a blunt bullet. “It implies that the heliosphere is symmetric, at least at the two points where the Voyager spacecraft crossed, that says that these two points on the surface are almost at the same distance.” said Bill Kurth, a University of Iowa research scientist.
All the data recorded has been feeding into a debate about the general overall shape of the heliosphere, either it is symmetrical or like a wind sock, now proven that shape is in fact dependent on the relative strengths of the magnetic field.
Each measurements from each Voyager happened at 2 different points, confusing scientists. “It’s kind of like looking at an elephant with a microscope, 2 people go up to an elephant with a microscope, and they come up with two different measurements. You have no idea what’s going on in between.” Kurth further explained.
Both Voyagers are predicted to drop below critical energy level by mid 2020’s, but they’re likely to follow their trajectories, for as long as we know. “The two Voyagers will outlast Earth, they’re in their own orbits around the galaxy for 5bn years or longer. And the probability of them running into anything is almost zero,” said Kurth.