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back to article Voyager probe reaches edge of Solar System's 'bubble'

NASA's famous Voyager 1 space probe, sailing outwards into the interstellar void far beyond the orbit of Pluto, has entered a new and never-before-seen region of space thought to be the very edge of the "bubble" maintained around the solar system by the power of the Sun. "We shouldn't have long to wait to find out what the space …

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'Soon we find out what interstellar space is really like'

Nope.

Soon we find out that Voyager 1 has been vaporised by the quarantine barrier set up by the Galactic Council in 1945 when they realised that a species capable of Nuking itself was perhaps a little too dangerous to be allowed loose in the Galaxy.

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Anonymous Coward

Silly Asses

By Isaac Asimov.

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@Norfolk 'n' Goode

Yes, I see the similarity and I may have read it. I think my comment also owes a fair bit to "The Mote in God's Eye".

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Coat

My expectation

I'm hoping that it will crash into a wall and it turns out our universe is more akin to the Truman Show. The next Voyager mission will have to be sent out with a big drill attached...

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So cool.

Especially the 8-track recorders still going strong.

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Pint

Yep

Hat's off to the boffins at NASA.

And a beer from me. Nice one, chaps.

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The 8-track tape bit is brilliant - 34 years and 11bln miles and still going strong. Fantastic boffinry.

And one WTF?? - Voyager 1 launched September 1977, Voyager 2 launched August 1977 - why did they invert the numbering / launch out of sequence?

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They knew the flight plans in advance; I suppose they decided that the order they would spend the majority of their operating time in was more important than the launch order. V'ger 2 was going to have a less rapid egress from the Solar System in order to visit the outer two major planets.

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@James Micallef

It's largely marketing; there is a logic to it, but it's a bit tricky. One probe was launched to reach Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The other probe was launched to reach Jupiter and Saturn and focus on Titan as it went by Saturn, and preferably to get there first.

Titan was a tantalizing world at the time (still is). It was known to have an atmosphere of methane and be larger than Mercury and the Galilean satellites and was speculated as a place where some form of life might conceivably have formed. In fact, Titan was considered important enough that, if something happened to the probe that was to fly close by it, the second one would sacrifice the trips to Uranus and Neptune for a good look at Titan.

Because of this and the alignment of the planets, the craft going to all four planets had to launch first to arrive at the right time on the right trajectory to reach all four. I think I read once that, to reach Uranus and Neptune, the margin for error at Saturn was very very small, the equivalent of sinking a 900 ft putt without rimming the cup. However, it would also arrive at Jupiter AFTER the Jupiter-Saturn-Titan probe, partly from the math and partly to know which trajectory to take (Uranus-Neptune or Titan). Since the later launching probe was arriving at Jupiter first, it was called 1.

Beer, because my brain hurts

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Happy

Spotted your last name

Wish I was in the land of your forefathers (and you?) right now. But they've had rocky weather the last couple of weeks.

Did either V'ger carry stuff that it would be nice to have working but can't power up, does anyone know?

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Black Helicopters

"And one WTF?? - Voyager 1 launched September 1977, Voyager 2 launched August 1977 - why did they invert the numbering / launch out of sequence?"

There was an accident with a time machine, but that was all hushed up!

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Boffin

Possibility because Voyager 1 was launched on a shorter trajectory to the planets, Voyager 1 arrived at Jupiter in January 1979 whereas voyager 2 reached Jupiter in July 1979.

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Any Barry White?

"Cain't geht enoff ov yo lov bayb", playing away in space? Hahahaha

Maybe some John Lennon or Jesus Christ Super Star blazing away toward the edge?

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Anonymous Coward

No need for the AA in space, then...

Stories like this amaze me - my Vauxhall is 6 years old, done about 90,000 miles and been nothing but trouble since I took delivery of it. If the JPL built cars, I'd buy one.

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If the JPL built cars . . .

you couldn't afford one.

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Terminator

There are no cobblestones, rodents, weather or cops in space!

These probes have it easy.

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Boffin

Done the maths for you...

Yes, and in the long run, swapping a Vaxuall Astra for a Voyager probe it would have worked out approximately 10 times cheaper. By my maths, not allowing for inflation:

Vaxhall Astra 1.4

Purchase Cost (On the Road): £13,000

Running Cost/Year: £650

Years: 6

Miles: 90,000

Fuel Cost: £9,828

Total Cost :£26,728

Cost/Mile: £0.30

Speed/MPH: 70

Voyager 1

Purchase Cost (Launched): £219,200,000

Running Cost/Year: £4,800,000

Years: 34

Miles: 11,000,000,000

Fuel Cost: Included in Purchase Cost

Total Cost :£382,400,000

Cost/Mile: £0.03

Speed/MPH: 36,907

The only problem with the Voyager option is that I doubt your bank would lend you the inital 219 million quid for the deposit.

On the other hand, it seems unlikely that you would live for the 17,926 years it would take your Vaxhaull Astra to reach the edge of the Solar System (plus 18 years to get your driving license in the first place).

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some people have far too much time on their hands....

I sir, salute you for ustilising said time for supplying me with an awesome satistic for wasting management time by justifying a nuclear powered space probe to my boss as my new mode of transport!!

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£4,000,000,000 for a car no thanks! ;)

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Just a correction

I think both of these were launched in 1977? I may be wrong.

If I had the energy I'd look online but I cannot be bothered to do even that, let alone travel 11 billion miles...

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Happy

i was born in 72

But its the 8 track 11 billion miles away and still cranking that made me smile

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Ever known?

"Voyager 2 remains the only spacecraft ever known to have visited the outer planets Uranus and Neptune"

Is this to cover the possibility that LGMs have visited Uranus and Neptune, or that NASA, the Soviets or China sent some undercover space missions there that we haven't been told about yet?

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That's the question

Your LGM hypothesis does not adequately explain this convoluted bit of journalese.

For, if some extraterrestrial space-probing species had sent a visitor to Uranus and/or Neptune, it's odds-on *they* would have known about it.

NASA does not attempt this lets-give-the-aliens-the-benefit-of-the-doubt contortion. The mission website says "Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets".

Source: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/index.html

PS - for certain values of "visited". Try telling your mother that you swung by 50,000 miles away doing a million kph to take a few snaps, and see if she thinks that counts as "visiting".

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> undercover space missions we haven't

I suspect its not impossible that there's the occassional SF fan in NASA, and it might be they're leaving a bit of room for space craft from other intelligent life forms...

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Well, Lester & co were never absolutely sure of PARIS's flight path after release from the balloon...

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Boffin

I would speculate that the reason they don’t, is because NASA personnel know how far away the stars are. Furthermore, if they did acknowledge the possibility in any way, they would be totally unscientific as there is no evidence yet of extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations.

And it may well be there is no such thing as an interstellar spacefaring race anywhere! After all, the age of the Earth is a significant fraction of the age of the Universe, and in order for our Solar System to exist at all there must have been at least one complete generation of supergiant stars, and I think that in order to get the amount of interesting elements like uranium that we find on Earth there was probably another generation of star formation in between too. We may in fact, as improbable as it seems, be the first spacefaring life in the cosmos — we have exactly as much evidence for that as we do against it.

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And what do you find there?

When you get to the edge of the 'bubble' is there a large sign saying "You are now leaving the Solar System. Only space probes travelling to other stars may go beyond this point. Please have your papers ready for security. You are not permitted to carry the following items ..."

More interesting: what language is it written in?

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Alien

More interesting: what language is it written in?

Vulcan, of course.

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Alien

For some reason, that put me in mind

...of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GrantNaylor_RedDwarf.jpg

Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.

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Anonymous Coward

Speed Limit 40,000mph

---------------------------------

Leaving

Sol System.

--

Entering

Interstellar Space.

--

Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.

Speed Enforced By Star Destroyers.

Next rest stop in 1.03461597 × 10^14 miles.

Stop for School Starships Loading and Unloading Padwans.

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Oh?

Was thinking Vogon, myself.

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It's a US space probe so....

...it will be asked to remove it's shoes before proceeding.

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Alien

"Thank you for visting the solar system"

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Alien

When you get to the edge of the 'bubble' is there a large sign saying "You are now leaving the Solar System.

Last Intergalactic restroom facilities for 25 trillion miles, next stop Sirius the "Dog Star" in about 296,000 years time

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Paris Hilton

Sending Vger into outer space?

Those fools! They don't understand what they're messing with!

Paris - 'cos she doean't either.

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Flame

Ahem.

And how far is that in Linguini?

Standards, dammit. They're there for a reason.

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Boffin

Standard Units

About 98,192.85 Billion Linguini

Standards converter page, it's there for a reason

http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/page/reg-standards-converter.html

It's also travelling at approximately at 0.5158% of the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum, but I couldn't be bothered to convert that to furlongs per fortnight

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Boffin

"what interstellar space is really like"

Really, really dull, I suspect.

Still, lets hear it for nuclear power in space. That's an amazing product lifespan.

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'Soon we find out what interstellar space is really like'

Conclusion: 'It's cold and dark'.

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'Soon we find out what interstellar space is really like'

Rather like peach-flavoured Angel Delight, if the accompanying illustration is to be believed.

Mmmmmmmm peach-flavoured Angel Delight...

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Also...

"Windy" and a bit radioactive.

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It makes me feel tremendously proud of us as a race that these voyagers are out there, so far from home and still going. They will continue to travel, and outlast us all, even though at some point in the next decade or so their RTGs will decay to the point where they generate insufficient power to allow them to keep communicating with the miniscule dot surrounded by other tiny dots that is their view of the place we all call home.

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...and even when their power gives up the ghost and stops transmission, they'll keep on going and going and going, potentially for tens, hundreds of thousands of years... perhaps even millions considering that the chances of them bumping into anything solid are fairly close to zero

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Pint

I remember the excitement of each planetary visit

These probes have done so much more than can ever be expressed in terms of money!

A toast to all those involved in making all that possible!

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It's a long way to Tipperary....

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Pint

Douglas Adams RIP

"[...] Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space [...]"

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Pint

Overblown much? :p

"For the past 22 years they have been not merely space probes but star probes"

That's like saying when I'm in my garden I'm visiting my neighbour's house. They're still WAY closer to the sun than to any other star.

Also, her 39-year mission? When launched in 1977? Someone needs a new calculator.

Still, it's amazing that the probe is still functioning after 34 years, and the timeline (Voyager was launched when I was 5, and I just celebrated my 40th birthday) really gives you a sense of how big space is, when it's not even out of the vicinity of the sun after all this time!

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Yeah, but...

...it did take a few detours and tourist snaps onroute.

Methinks a dedicated, modern day extra-solar system probe launched today could probably pass it in a few decades.

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Pint

interesting factoid

New Horizons, the mission to Pluto, had the highest Earth departure velocity but it will never overtake Voyager 1.

Voyager 1 was accelerated by gravity slingshots around the outer planets during it's visits and currently has the highest cruising speed of any probe so far.

Voyager, Pioneer and New Horizons. A million years from now they will likely still be out there, silent and alone in the darkness between the stars. Testaments to the existence of a species long since gone (extinct or ascended, take your pick), and perhaps forgotten.

God speed and a safe journey.

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Was all this in their original mission?

And would any probe these days get the kind of buy-in (and funding) to develop something which could radio home from that distance?

I continue to be enthralled by the idea of a man-made device which can still manage to signal to us from that distance. It's astonishing. I've actually spent hours geeking out on the comms logs, imagining how long it took for each bit to reach us from out there. It's a feeling we need to get into our kids, the wonder of it - to keep them engaged with learning itself.

Also - Lewis, spotted another blunt reference to how great Nuclear power is there. Tut.

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