Saturday, June 18, 2011

NASA spacecraft begins trek out of our solar system

A NASA spacecraft is speeding out and away from our solar system and will make the first leap into interstellar space at any moment according to scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Voyager 1's exit will begin giving astrophysicists new data accounts of life outside the solar system.

The planetary satellite was launched nearly 34 years ago and continues to transmit data back to earth about the space around the craft powered by nuclear batteries.

It is this data sent back since last December and into February which began informing scientists at JPL that the spacecraft is no longer registering any solar wind activity and has moved into the outermost region of our solar system where there is no solar wind at the edge of the heliopause.

Our Sun emits solar wind which are super charged particles that soar out to the edge of the heliosphere estimated at some 9.3 billion miles or greater from the Sun.

"These calculations show we're getting close, but how close?" asks Ed Stone, a Voyager project scientist based at Pasadena's California Institute of Technology. "That's what we don't know, but Voyager 1 speeds outward a billion miles every three years, so we may not have long to wait."

NASA suggests that the spacecraft will become the first human built object to arrive outside the solar system before 2013.

Voyager 1 travels through space at a rate of 320 million miles a year, or the distance of 3.5 astronomical units.

Our solar system is made up of our Sun and planets located in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Launched from Cape Canaveral on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 passed by the great planet of Jupiter in 1979, and took closeup images of Saturn in 1980, pictures which redefined what scientists knew about the make up of the planet's rings.

As of 9:00 a.m. EDT today, Voyager was located 10,837,307,002 miles from earth.

Voyager is expected to operate through 2020 according to JPL.

As Voyager 1 becomes the first man made object to leave our heliospere, it's sister craft Voyager 2 is located two billion miles away and should leave the solar system two years later.

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