Voyager 2 approaches the interstellar space

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Second Voyager spacecraft will soon be leaving our solar system

On the way out: The NASA spacecraft Voyager 2 is now approaching the outer boundary of our solar system. Indications for this are increasing measurements of cosmic radiation, which transmit the instruments of the 40-year-old probe. They indicate that Voyager 2 may soon be leaving the heliosphere and thus the sphere of influence of our sun. After Voyager 1, she would be only the second man-made vehicle that reaches the interstellar space.

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They are the outposts of humanity: for over 40 years, the two Voyager space probes fly through our solar system. We owe them unique insights into never-before explored areas of our cosmic homeland. Meanwhile, however, both spacecraft will head towards infinity: Voyager 1 has our solar system and the protective already in 2013 heliosphere leave and flies through now well 21 billion kilometers away from us interstellar space – the first man-made vehicle.

Five percent in a month

Now Voyager 2 is about to do it to her sister probe. As reported by NASA, the probe’s gauges registered an increase in high-energy cosmic rays by about five percent during August 2018. “We see a change in the environment around Voyager 2 – no doubt about that,” says Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology.

The researchers see this as an indication that Voyager 2 is approaching the Heliopause – the outer boundary of the shielding sphere of influence of our sun. Because even Voyager 1 has experienced such an increase in cosmic radiation in May 2012. Three months later, the spacecraft crossed the heliopause and entered the interstellar space. The NASA scientists therefore assume that the now registered changes in radiation and particle currents, even for Voyager 2 announce the imminent attainment of heliopause.

Time still uncertain

When it will be so far, is still unclear. Because both Voyager probes fly in almost the opposite direction. While Voyager 2 has left the solar system in a northerly direction, its sister probe steers a southern course and thus moves through a completely different region of the heliosphere. Whether or not the external border is closer or farther away from us and whether there are any differences will now be shown by the Voyager 2 measurement data.

“We will learn a lot in the next few months,” says Stone. “When we reach the heliopause, we do not know yet, but we are only one thing certain: we are not there yet.” Even in interstellar space, however, the journey of the two space “classic cars” is far from over: the probes still have enough energy reserves to carry out scientific measurements and return data to earth for at least ten years. And then, for thousands of years , Voyager probes will cross space as dumb messengers of humanity.

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