Image Credit: NASA / JPL
05 September 2013; On this day, in 1977, the Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched on it’s epic journey, far beyond the planets, asteroids, and comets of our solar system.
“Voyager 1 has been observing the interplanetary medium throughout its journey, and is now exploring the outermost reaches of where the solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field dominate space. In December 2004, the spacecraft crossed the termination shock (where the speed of the solar wind drops below the speed of sound) at 94 AU (about 14 billion km from the sun, more than twice the distance to Pluto). Since then, Voyager 1 has been operating in the heliosheath environment, a region about 40 to 50 AU (3.7 billion to 4.7 billion km) thick where the solar wind mixes with the interstellar wind.” [[Quote from the NASA website]]
Now, Voyager 1 is on the cusp of escaping entirely from the sun, and continuing it’s journey into the Big Black of interstellar space FOREVER – – or, until it is captured by the gravity well of some distant star millions or billions of years from now.
In spite of the 36 years and vast distance now separating us from Voyager 1, the nuclear power plant abroad this relatively tiny spacecraft allows it to contacts JPL in Pasadena CA to report conditions in it’s environment.
What a marvelous achievement, thanks to science, engineering, and a vast amount of money; money well spent IMHO.