Voyager 2's Messages Revealing Findings About Interstellar Space

James Marshall
November 6, 2019

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It is also similar to the plasma density jump experienced by Voyager 1 when it crossed into interstellar space, they said. Voyager 2 detected winds - flows of charged gas particles that come from the sun - leaking from the solar system. "Without this new data from Voyager 2, we wouldn't know if what we were seeing with Voyager 1 was characteristic of the entire heliosphere or specific just to the location and time when it crossed".

Both Voyager tests launched in 1977, with Voyager 2 heading into space half a month prior to Voyager 1. This means that the spacecraft has gone beyond the solar system.

Now, this, combined with Voyager 2's findings, has led the team to posit that the boundary layer in question might be present on both sides of the heliopause.

Hopefully, further analysis of Voyager 2 data would reveal more about this. It made its last planetary observation of Uranus in 1989, nearly a decade after Voyager 1 had started its long march toward the edge of the solar system. But because so much of the transition from our solar system to the space beyond is marked by changes in plasma (a hot ionized gas that's the most abundant state of matter in the universe), Voyager 1's damaged instrument had difficulty measuring it. As a result, there was some debate about when, exactly, the probe left our solar system. Eventually, measurements of local electrons and magnetic field shifts confirmed it was in interstellar space.

Voyager 2 has recently sent back information demonstrating that it has additionally crossed the heliopause, and it had a completely practical plasma spectrometer. Earlier, only Voyager-1 of NASA reached this limit. As Voyager 2 crossed from the heliosphere to the ISM, it detected a 20-fold increase in plasma density.

According to researchers, the entry of Voyager 2 into the ISM occurred at 119.7 astronomical units (AU), or more than 11 billion miles from the Sun. Be that as it may, their leave focuses were around 150 AU separated. "It does not surprise me that a sharp boundary forms". Bill Karth of the University of Iowa stated that Voyager-1 and Voyager-2 entered ISM at approximately equal distances from the Sun through different paths. Eyes on Voyager is NASA's interactive app for following along with the two spacecraft - kind of like interstellar flight tracking. Their original objective was to study Jupiter and Saturn specifically, sending back findings like active volcanos on Jupiter's moons and giving us our first detailed look at Saturn's rings. The main practical test that has any expectation of arriving at the heliopause is New Horizons, which is at present flying through the Kuiper Belt.

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