Pasadena, CA – On November 5th, 2018, NASA’s Voyager 2 became only the second spacecraft in history to leave the heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by our Sun. At a distance of about 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from Earth – well beyond the orbit of Pluto – Voyager 2 had entered interstellar space, or the region between stars.
Today, five new research papers in the journal Nature Astronomy describe what scientists observed during and since Voyager 2’s historic crossing.
Greenbelt, MD – NASA says that out at the boundary of our solar system, pressure runs high. This pressure, the force plasma, magnetic fields and particles like ions, cosmic rays and electrons exert on one another when they flow and collide, was recently measured by scientists in totality for the first time — and it was found to be greater than expected.
Using observations of galactic cosmic rays — a type of highly energetic particle — from NASA’s Voyager spacecraft scientists calculated the total pressure from particles in the outer region of the solar system, known as the heliosheath.
Washington, D.C. Two Proposals have been picked by NASA for concept studies that could help us better understand the fundamental nature of space and how it changes in response to planetary atmospheres, radiation from the Sun, and interstellar particles. The proposals will advance NASA’s heliophysics program and could lead to better protection for both technology and humans as we travel farther from home.
Each of these Heliophysics Science Mission of Opportunity proposals will receive $400,000 to conduct a nine-month mission concept study.
Pasadena, CA – NASA engineers have been able to keep Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts flying for nearly 42 years, with careful planning and dashes of creativity, far longer than any other spacecraft in history.
To ensure that these vintage robots continue to return the best science data possible from the frontiers of space, mission engineers are implementing a new plan to manage them. And that involves making difficult choices, particularly about instruments and thrusters.
Written by Sarah Frazier
Greenbelt, MD – Every object, planet or person traveling through space has to contend with the Sun’s damaging radiation — and the Moon has the scars to prove it.
Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission — short for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun — suggests how the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – For the second time in history, a human-made object has reached the space between the stars. NASA’s Voyager 2 probe now has exited the heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.
Members of NASA’s Voyager team will discuss the findings at a news conference at 10:00am CST (8:00am PST) on Monday, December 10th at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington. The news conference will stream live on the agency’s website.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Voyager 2 probe, currently on a journey toward interstellar space, has detected an increase in cosmic rays that originate outside our solar system. Launched in 1977, Voyager 2 is a little less than 11 billion miles (about 17.7 billion kilometers) from Earth, or more than 118 times the distance from Earth to the Sun.
Since 2007 the probe has been traveling through the outermost layer of the heliosphere — the vast bubble around the Sun and the planets dominated by solar material and magnetic fields. Voyager scientists have been watching for the spacecraft to reach the outer boundary of the heliosphere, known as the heliopause. Once Voyager 2 exits the heliosphere, it will become the second human-made object, after Voyager 1, to enter interstellar space.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Whether you’re traveling across cities, continents or even oceans this holiday season, there is no long-haul flight quite like that of the Voyagers.
This year, we celebrated 40 years since the launch of NASA’s twin Voyager probes — the two farthest, fastest spacecraft currently in operation. Each Voyager has contributed an enormous amount of knowledge about the solar system, including the unexpected diversity of its planets and their moons. Among their many distinctions, Voyager 1 is the only spacecraft to enter interstellar space, and Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to fly by all four giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Written by Sarah Frazier
Greenbelt, MD – Our Sun is active: Not only does it release a constant stream of material, called the solar wind, but it also lets out occasional bursts of faster-moving material, known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs.
NASA researchers wish to improve our understanding of CMEs and how they move through space because they can interact with the magnetic field around Earth, affecting satellites, interfering with GPS signals, triggering auroras, and — in extreme cases — straining power grids.
While we track CMEs with a number of instruments, the sheer size of the solar system means that our observations are limited, and usually taken from a distance.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – As NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft were changing our understanding of the solar system, they also spurred a leap in spacecraft communications.
The mission’s impact is still visible in California’s Mojave Desert. There, at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, the arcs of antenna dishes peek out over craggy hilltops. Goldstone was the first place where the two Voyagers started to change the landscape. The farther they traveled, the bigger these dishes needed to be so they could send and receive radio waves necessary to track and communicate with the probes.
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