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Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space

Date: 06 November 2019 Tags: Space

Issue

NASA’s Voyager 2 has become the second spacecraft to cross the boundary that marks the edge of the Sun’s realm and the start of interstellar space.

 

Background

The marked increase in plasma density as observed is an evidence of Voyager 2 journeying from the hot, lower-density plasma characteristic of the solar wind to the cool, higher-density plasma of interstellar space.

 

Details

  • The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft were launched within weeks of each other by NASA in 1977, with different mission goals and trajectories through space.

  • Data from the instrument on Voyager 2 also gives additional clues to the thickness of the heliosheath, the outer region of the heliosphere and the point where the solar wind piles up against the approaching wind in interstellar space.

 

Voyager 2

  • Voyager 2 is a space probe launched by NASA on August 20, 1977, to study the outer planets. Part of the Voyager program, it was launched 16 days before its twin, Voyager 1, on a trajectory that took longer to reach Jupiter and Saturn but enabled further encounters with Uranus and Neptune.

  • It is the only spacecraft to have visited either of these two ice giant planets.

  • Voyager 2 is now in its extended mission to study the outer reaches of the Solar System. It remains in contact through the NASA Deep Space Network.

 

Interstellar space

  • Scientists define the beginning of interstellar space as the place where the sun’s constant flow of material and magnetic field stop affecting its surroundings.

  • This place is called the heliopause. It marks the end of a region created by our sun that is called the heliosphere.

The sun creates this heliosphere by sending a constant flow of particles and a magnetic field out into space.This stream is called the ‘solar wind.’