from forbes.com: Voyager 1 was launched in September of 1977 – and now nearly
36 years later, it’s on the cusp of being the first human-made object
to ever leave our solar system. Scientists at NASA believe it’s
currently in the last region of the solar system before entering
interstellar space. The boundary line (well, less a line than a fuzzily
defined region) is the edge of where charged particles carried by solar
wind travel to.
“This strange, last region before interstellar space is coming into
focus, thanks to Voyager 1, humankind’s most distant scout,” NASA
researcher Ed Stone said in a press release.
Voyager 1 entered that last region, which NASA has referred to as a “magnetic highway,” in August of last year.
In this part of space, the Sun’s magnetic field is intersecting with
magnetic fields originating in interstellar space. This causes charged
particles from the Sun to speed up and head out of our solar system,
while charged particles from interstellar space speed up to zoom into
our solar system. Some of what NASA has learned about the region so far
has been published in this week’s edition of Science.
It’s not clear yet when Voyager 1 will leave the solar
system – scientists won’t know for sure until it actually gets there.
That could be anywhere from a few months to a few years away. It’s
sister craft, Voyager 2, is also expected to enter interstellar
space, but that will be some time later. Both probes have enough power
to last to 2020, so we should learn quite a bit about interstellar space
before they fall silent.
If either probe happens to meet any extraterrestrial intelligences
while it’s out there, though, it won’t matter if they have power or not.
Each probe is equipped with a gold record containing images, sounds and
other information about us and the Earth. You can see an image of that
The contents of the records were selected by a committee led by the
late scientist Carl Sagan. It contains music from different time periods
and cultures, sounds from the Earth like the wind and surf, and 116
different images. It’s pretty unlikely that anyone will actually find
either of the Voyager probes to play the record. But to Carl Sagan, that
was part of the magic of the two records.
“The launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says
something very hopeful about life on this planet,” he said at the time.