Voyager 1 has done it. It’s made it out of the solar system. From its humble beginnings in 1977, travelling through the vacuous chill of outer space, the humble space probe that was built when glam rock was still a popular phenomenon, has become the first man made object to leave a mark outside of our little eight planet system.
While it’s thought that Voyager 1 actually had its first encounter with inter-stellar space in August last year, it’s taken NASA over a year to confirm it. Voyager is now travelling through the ionised gas found at the edge of our solar system and is an insane 18.8 billion kilometres from the sun. Of course while this is a great achievement, it only takes light from said sun about 17 hours to catch up to it.
“Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind’s historic leap into interstellar space,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology. “The Voyager team needed time to analyze those observations and make sense of them. But we can now answer the question we’ve all been asking — ‘Are we there yet?’ Yes, we are.”
But how did NASA know that indeed, we’d made it? We have the sun to thank for that. Back in early 2012, it ejected solar particles that when they caught up with Voyager 1 over a year later, began vibrating the plasma surrounding it. Voyager was able to record this vibration and relay it back to earth. Studying this led NASA scientists to conclude that the probe had entered a much denser patch of plasma, thought to exist outside of the heliosphere (a collection of charged particles surrounding the sun and planets of our solar system).
But of course the Voyager space craft have and could achieve more than just breaking distance records. Voyager 1 is the craft that took the famous “pale blue dot” image, back in 1990, which showed the Earth as a mere speck among the blackness of space. It also took the “family portrait,” image which showed all of our solar system’s planets together.
More than that though, Voyager 1 contains information about the Earth and its people, in case it is ever discovered by intelligent life. On it is a gold plated audio-visual disc, containing images of our planet and its lifeforms, spoken messages from world leaders of the time and a “sounds of earth,” recording of noises like a baby crying, whale song and some famous musician’s songs.
Kitguru Says: This is one of mankind’s greatest achievements. We’ve left our mark outside of our solar system. Kudos to everyone that was ever involved in this project, it’s a staggering display of human endeavour.