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Voyager 1 Turns 35, Spacecraft to Enter Outer Space

Sep 05, 2012 08:33 AM EDT
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NASA's Voyager 1, which will be turning 35 today, is likely on the verge of exiting the solar system and entering into the interstellar space.

Voyager 1 was launched this day, thirty five years ago in 1977, to study the outer solar system and observe the planets Saturn and Jupiter. The spacecraft has travelled about 18 million miles in the last 35 years, an achievement which no man-made spacecraft has so far done.

A recent report from NASA said that Voyager 1 is likely to enter the other side of the solar system and into the interstellar space. If the spacecraft enters the other side of the solar system, it will be the first human-made object to do so. Voyager 1 was sent a few days after Voyage 2 was launched in the other direction on August 20, 1977 to study Uranus and Neptune.

Ever since its launch Voyager 1 has beamed back pictures of Jupiter and Saturn. The spacecraft captured the images of volcanic eruption from a volcano known as Loki on Jupiter's moon lo in 1979. Besides this, Voyager 1 also took images of Saturn's rings that could never be seen from the Earth, reported Washington Post.

Back in May, NASA scientists indicated that Voyager 1 was found getting hit by cosmic rays in an increased level, an indicator that suggests that the spacecraft might possibly be near the heliopause, a region where the solar wind from the sun meets the plasma from the interstellar space. But it is not known how long it will take to enter the other side of the solar system. 

During a lecture to mark the impending 35th birth anniversary of Voyager 1, Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said that it might possibly take days, months or even years to enter outer space, where the scientists expect to witness a calmer ambience. "The question is, how much further is it to the heliopause?" Stone asked at the lecture held at the headquarters of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, according to a report in UK news website Telegraph.

"We don't know .. whether we're dancing along the edge of a new region which is connected to the outside," he added.

Voyager 1 is currently 11 billion miles away from the sun. According to a report from the Associated Press, some 20 part-time scientists are working in the mission to analyze data sent by Voyager 1 which takes 17 hours to reach earth.

Researchers had switched off the cameras in the spacecraft long time back in order to save power. The Telegraph reported that the spacecraft's power will completely turn off by 2025. Experts hope that Voyager 1 will reach the interstellar space within this period.

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