- India diplomat who touts women’s rights busted for $3 wage to nanny
- MSNBC host Ed Schultz paid $252K by unions in 2012-2013
- Korean War memorial ordered to take down Christian cross
- Billy Graham near death, ‘close to going home to be with the Lord’
- SeaTac, Wash.: City’s new $15 minimum wage heads to court
- Obama mulls support for Islamists in Syria, with conditions
- Obama ‘birther’ theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- U.S. drone faulted for killing 14 ‘innocent civilians’ at Yemen wedding
- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
NASA: Voyager 1 probe has left the solar system
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Voyager 1 has crossed a new frontier, becoming the first spacecraft ever to leave the solar system, NASA said Thursday.
Thirty-six years after it was launched from Earth on a tour of the outer planets, the plutonium-powered probe is more than 11 1/2 billion miles from the sun, cruising through what scientists call interstellar space — the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, the space agency said.
Voyager 1 actually made its exit more than a year ago, according to NASA. But it’s not as if there’s a dotted boundary line out there or a signpost, and it was not until recently that the space agency had the evidence to convince it of what an outside research team had claimed last month: that the spacecraft had finally plowed through the hot plasma bubble surrounding the planets and escaped the sun’s influence.
While some scientists said they remain unconvinced, NASA celebrated.
Voyager 1 will now study exotic particles and other phenomena in a never-before-explored part of the universe and radio the data back to Earth, where the Voyager team awaits the starship’s discoveries.
The interstellar ambassador also carries a gold-plated disc containing multicultural greetings, songs and photos, just in case it bumps into an intelligent species.
Voyager 1’s odyssey began in 1977 when the spacecraft and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched on a tour of the gas giant planets of the solar system. After beaming back dazzling postcard views of Jupiter’s giant red spot and Saturn’s shimmering rings, Voyager 2 hopscotched to Uranus and Neptune. Meanwhile, Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to power itself past Pluto.
Voyager 1, which is about the size of a subcompact car, carries instruments that study magnetic fields, cosmic rays and solar wind.
Last year, scientists monitoring Voyager 1 noticed strange happenings that suggested the spacecraft had broken through: Charged particles streaming from the sun suddenly vanished. At the same time, there was a spike in galactic cosmic rays bursting in from the outside.
Since there was no detectable change in the direction of the magnetic field lines, the team assumed the far-flung craft was still in the heliosphere, or the vast bubble of charged particles around the sun.
The Voyager team patiently waited for a change in magnetic field direction — thought to be the telltale sign of a cosmic border crossing. But in the meantime, a chance solar eruption caused the space around Voyager 1 to echo like a bell last spring and provided the scientists with the data they needed, convincing them the boundary had been crossed in August of last year.
“It took us 10 seconds to realize we were in interstellar space,” said Don Gurnett, a Voyager scientist at the University of Iowa who led the new research, published online in the journal Science.
The new observations are fascinating, but “it’s premature to judge,” said Lennard Fisk, a space science professor at the University of Michigan and former NASA associate administrator who was not part of the team. “Can we wait a little while longer? Maybe this picture will clear up the farther we go.”
What bothers Fisk is the absence of a change in magnetic field direction.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- U.S. Navy-China showdown: Chinese try to halt U.S. cruiser in international waters
- House budget bargain faces Senate filibuster; Republicans line up to oppose
- PRUDEN: The last living witnesses; they wore the yellow star and remember the Nazi terror
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- Billy Graham near death, close to going home to be with the Lord
- Obama birther theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- KEENE: James Clapper should resign for lying to Congress
- Kim Jong-un consolidating power or losing grip on North Korea's military
- STEVENS: Resisting the seduction of housing speculation
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Implement these actionable tips, how-to’s and best practices in 10 minutes or less to leverage online communications and technology for brand, business and career development.
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League and other interesting sporting events.
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow