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Voyager 2: An increase in density has been detected in interstellar space

Voyager 2: An increase in density has been detected in interstellar space

The Voyager 2 probe detected an increase in the density of space outside the solar system more than 20 billion kilometers from Earth.

By comparing data from several instruments aboard the Revolutionary spacecraft, mission scientists determined that the probe crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere on November 5. This boundary, called the edge of the heliosphere, is where the warm, faint solar wind meets the cold, dense interstellar medium. His twin, Voyager 1 It crossed that border in 2012, but Voyager 2 has brought a working instrument that will provide first-of-its-kind observations about the nature of this gateway to interstellar space. Voyager 2 is now located just over 20 billion kilometers from Earth. Mission operators can still communicate with Voyager 2 as it enters this new phase of its journey, but information — which moves at the speed of light — takes about 19 hours to travel from the spacecraft to Earth. In comparison, light traveling from the Sun takes about eight minutes to reach Earth.

New data

Travel 1 and 2 (Positions). Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In addition to the plasma data, members of the Voyager science team saw evidence from three other instruments on board — the Cosmic Ray Subsystem, the Low Energy Charged Particle Instrument, and the Magnetometer — which is consistent with the conclusion that Voyager 2 crossed the edge of the heliosphere. . Voyager team members are looking forward to continuing to study data from these other onboard instruments to get a clearer picture of the environment Voyager 2 is traveling through (the space inside the heliosphere is the heliosphere. The density of the material is very low, but it is still there.)

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Space density

The most convincing evidence that Voyager 2 exits the heliosphere comes from the Plasma Science Experiment ( Pls) A edge), an instrument that stopped working on Voyager 1 in 1980, long before the probe crossed the edge of the sun. Until recently, the space around Voyager 2 was filled mostly with plasma streaming from our sun. This flow, called the solar wind, creates a bubble – the heliosphere – that envelops the planets in our solar system. PLS uses electrical current from plasma to detect the speed, density, temperature, pressure and flow of the solar wind. The PLS system on board Voyager 2 observed a sharp decrease in the speed of solar wind particles on November 5. Since that date, the Plasma Instrument has not observed any flow of solar wind in the environment surrounding Voyager 2, making mission scientists confident that the probe has left the heliosphere.

NASA Voyager 2 enters interstellar space


Voyager's probes are powered using heat generated by the decay of radioactive materials, contained in a device called a radioisotope thermogen ( Rtg ). The power output of the RTGs declines by about four watts per year, which means that various parts of the Voyagers, including the cameras on both spacecraft, have been turned off over time to manage power.