Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Recalculating the distance to interstellar space

Date:
June 15, 2011
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
Scientists analyzing recent data from NASA's Voyager and Cassini spacecraft have calculated that Voyager 1 could cross over into the frontier of interstellar space at any time and much earlier than previously thought.

This artist's concept shows NASA's two Voyager spacecraft exploring a turbulent region of space known as the heliosheath, the outer shell of the bubble of charged particles around our sun.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists analyzing recent data from NASA's Voyager and Cassini spacecraft have calculated that Voyager 1 could cross over into the frontier of interstellar space at any time and much earlier than previously thought.

Related Articles


The findings are detailed in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Data from Voyager's low-energy charged particle instrument, first reported in December 2010, have indicated that the outward speed of the charged particles streaming from the sun has slowed to zero. The stagnation of this solar wind has continued through at least February 2011, marking a thick, previously unpredicted "transition zone" at the edge of our solar system.

"There is one time we are going to cross that frontier, and this is the first sign it is upon us," said Tom Krimigis, prinicipal investigator for Voyager's low-energy charged particle instrument and Cassini's magnetospheric imaging instrument, based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

Krimigis and colleagues combined the new Voyager data with previously unpublished measurements from the ion and neutral camera on Cassini's magnetospheric imaging instrument. The Cassini instrument collects data on neutral atoms streaming into our solar system from the outside.

The analysis indicates that the boundary between interstellar space and the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself is likely between 10 and 14 billion miles (16 to 23 kilometers) from the sun, with a best estimate of approximately 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers). Since Voyager 1 is already nearly 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) out, it could cross into interstellar space at any time.

"These calculations show we're getting close, but how close? 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," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist, based at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Scientists intend to keep analyzing the Voyager 1 data, looking for confirmation. They will also be studying the Voyager 2 data, but Voyager 2 is not as close to the edge of the solar system as Voyager 1. Voyager 2 is about 9 billion miles (14 billion kilometers) away from the sun.

Launched in 1977, the Voyager twin spacecraft have been on a 33-year journey. They are humanity's farthest working deep space sentinels enroute to reach the edge of interstellar space. The Voyagers were built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which continues to operate both spacecraft. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is managed for NASA by Caltech.

More information about Voyager is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/voyager and http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stamatios M. Krimigis, Edmond C. Roelof, Robert B. Decker, Matthew E. Hill. Zero outward flow velocity for plasma in a heliosheath transition layer. Nature, 2011; 474 (7351): 359 DOI: 10.1038/nature10115

Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Recalculating the distance to interstellar space." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615141154.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2011, June 15). Recalculating the distance to interstellar space. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615141154.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Recalculating the distance to interstellar space." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615141154.htm (accessed November 1, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

Raw: Antares Liftoff Explosion

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Observers near Wallops Island recorded what they thought would be a routine rocket launch Tuesday night. What they recorded was a major rocket explosion shortly after lift off. (Oct 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

Raw: Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Just hours after an American cargo run to the International Space Station ended in flames, a Russian supply ship has arrived at the station with a load of fresh supplies. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Journalist Captures Moment of Antares Rocket Explosion

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 29, 2014) A space education journalist is among those who witness and record the explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket seconds after its launch. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

Rocket Explosion Under Investigation

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) NASA and Orbital Sciences officials say they are investigating the explosion of an unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station. It blew up moments after liftoff Tuesday evening over the launch site in Virginia. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins