back to article Voyager's 35th birthday gift: One-way INTERSTELLAR ticket

As NASA's Voyager probes complete their 35th year of operation, Voyager 1 has sensed a second change in the surrounding expanse of obsidian nothingness - just as scientists predicted would happen before the craft enters interstellar space. Artist's impression of Voyager 1 and 2 in the heliosheath Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech …

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Alien

If the sale of these was announced on 12 Sept......I would sign up to buy one and even queue!

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Headmaster

Space - is big, very, very big..... in fact it's so big.....

All of yous, go here, and watch / download at least the first say 8 videos....

http://www.khanacademy.org/science/cosmology-and-astronomy

Or you can download the entire site (all vids, all subjects) from here....

http://mujica.org/khan/howto.html

The universe and the sizes of it all, you know, the videos explained it all - my mind has blown.

Really. It's just incomprehensibly HUGE, and that is only the KNOWN or OBSERVABLE size of the universe.

And it's unknowably hugerea evera even more again.

I mean to the edge of the heliosphere is HUGE..... but it's really nothing of nothing, a billion, trillion times over, and then some more again.

I am wanting to see "instant through universe mapping and travel" happen - but while star treck and star wars etc., were interesting in the traveling through space aspect.....

The known size of the observable universe is - words escape me.

See the videos.

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Yay!

I love reading about the Voyager missions, it is science and engineering at its very best without the politics and "mine's bigger than yours" that goes along with current science projects. Depending on what information they come back with, it'd be good to see a dedicated Interstellar mission planned.

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Earth's greatest achievement

Building something that lasts, even against micrometeorites, still communicates and still senses.

I wonder if it'll encounter pure dark energy beyond the solar boundary and suddenly enter warp 9...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Earth's greatest achievement

Or they might just hear a loud *thunk* as it hits the edge, Truman Show stylie.

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Happy

Re: Earth's greatest achievement

lol - that is EXACTLY what I thought even before I read you post :) :)

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Bronze badge

Re: Earth's greatest achievement

Or they might just hear a loud *thunk* as it hits the edge, Truman Show stylie.

Or maybe it just wraps around, Misner-space stylee :)

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Headmaster

"Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

We read:

Nevertheless, it's NASA's longest-operating craft ever, rocketing through space for the last 35 years.

"Rocketing" is not the word I would use. "Falling", "following a geodesic through spacetime", possibly "careening" or "hurtling" would be more appropriate.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

I admire your pedantry - but in my defence (for I did proofread it) rocketing can generally mean "move or progress very rapidly".

C.

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Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

60000 km/h or have I miscalculated somewhere!

That could be described as "bombing" along but perhaps that would frighten the aliens :-)

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Coat

Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

As it is the USAs NASA I'd use 'shooting along'.

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Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

As it is the USAs NASA I'd use 'shooting along'.

Speaking as an American, I and many of my friends like to describe its rapid velocity as "wailing"... as in "60,000km/h! Man, that sucker's really wailing!

Btw, nice Doors reference by the Cal Tech guy... Break on through, break on through, break on through, break on through, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

"Alive!" she cried!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

Trolls never disappoint. BTW, you forgot to call them "sceptics ".

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Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

Just imagine what we could learn with a Voyager packed with modern day scientific instruments.

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Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

Nothing because it would break down before it even reached Jupiter.

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Go

Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

Pluto Fast Flyby

"The Pluto Fast Flyby was later cancelled due to a lack of funding, but it was replaced by the Pluto Kuiper Express."

Okay.

Pluto Kuiper Express!

"The mission was cancelled for budgetary reasons, but later replaced by the similar New Horizons mission."

OKAY!

New Horizons

"New Horizons is a NASA robotic spacecraft mission currently en route to the dwarf planet Pluto. It is expected to be the first spacecraft to fly by and study Pluto and its moons, Charon, Nix, Hydra, S/2011 P 1, and S/2012 P 1, with an estimated arrival date at the Pluto–Charon system of July 14, 2015. NASA may then also attempt flybys of one or more other Kuiper belt objects, if a suitable target can be located."

All right then. Phew.

I think it's time that wealthy people of interest picked up some tabs. Spend some money, guys, I will vote against the tax harpies.

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Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

We are / do / have.

New Horizons is heading for Pluto.

Dawn is off to Ceres having already surveyed Vesta.

Cassini is orbiting Saturn.

Curiosity is trundling around Mars.

And that's just the few that spring to mind.

There is a tendency to go to other planets and stay there rather than doing a tour of the solar system, but you can get a lot more science done it you have a few years in orbit, rather than an hour flying past. New Horizons is the exception to the rule but the physics of getting there make an orbiting probe a bit too tricky.

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Go

Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

TWO rovers trundling around Mars! Don't forget poor 'ol Opportunity!

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Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

It was a fortuitous planetary alignment that allowed the Voyager missions to occur when they did, the positions of the major outer planets allowed the probes to get a gravitational speed boost from each one as they passed. This particular set of conditions is not going to occur again for a long time, and getting to the edge of the solar system on rocket power alone can't be done with current technology (Well possibly with the fancy next generation of ion drives and VASIMR engines but you'd still need a hell of a lot of fuel). We'll probably have to wait for the next alignment before we can do the Grand Tour again.

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Boffin

Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

"There is a tendency to go to other planets and stay there rather than doing a tour of the solar system, but you can get a lot more science done it you have a few years in orbit, rather than an hour flying past."

I'm fairly sure that the Voyager trips were a rather "once in a lifetime" event (every 200 years or so?) due to a rather rare alignment of the outer planets. So very few probes will do tours of the solar system for a while yet.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

Plus Venus Express radar mapping Venus!

(Icon: just 'cuz)

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Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

They are http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/160839035.html although I'm sure they'll accept a donation from you.

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Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

> I think it's time that wealthy people of interest picked up some tabs. Spend some money, guys, I will vote

> against the tax harpies.

Where are the Charles Yerkeses and Percival Lowells (P.L.uto) of this new age? "Gates" or "Virgin _" could be rolled into some interesting names.

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Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

It wouldn't be right to forget Andrew Carnegie.

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Nobel?

The scientists behind Voyager are a mixture of physicists and geologists. The former discipline has a Nobel prize. In the past, the committee have been willing to award that prize to those who head up massive collaborations. I wonder if they have the imagination to reward the Voyager team. It is surely one of the most stunningly successful scientific experiments ever.

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@Ken Hagan Re: Nobel?

"I wonder if they have the imagination to reward the Voyager team."

I might be misunderstanding your intent here, but a Nobel Prize can only be awarded to a maximum of three people. It's in the rules:

"A maximum of three laureates and two different works may be selected per award. Except for the Peace Prize, which can be awarded to institutions, the awards can only be given to individuals. If the Peace Prize is not awarded, the money is split among the scientific prizes. This has happened 19 times so far." - Wikipedia

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Holmes

Re: @Ken Hagan Nobel?

Although lately the discussion has been started whether that rule should be overruled in order to award the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Higgs mechanism (and the Higgs boson) to more than three of

Philip Anderson

Robert Brout

François Englert

Gerald Guralnik

Carl Hagen

Peter Higgs

Tom Kibble

Gerard t'Hooft

And even that would be unfair to the CERN collaborations.

The time of easily identifiable "core individuals" responsible for a scientific discovery has passed I think.

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Re: @Ken Hagan Nobel?

I'm aware of the rule. My point is that the rule hasn't stopped the committee from awarding a prize to a humungous collaboration. I hate to pick on individuals, since it implies I don't think they deserved it (which is something I'm not knowledgeable enough to claim) but an example may give others something to shoot at:

Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer shared the 1984 prize for creating the W and Z bosons at CERN. The basic idea of colliding protons and anti-protons is not *that* inventive. The inventiveness comes from solving the engineering problem of actually making the scheme work. I find it hard to believe that just two people made the crucial engineering breakthroughs. I bet there are dozens of others who reckon they have a moral share in the prize.

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Facepalm

Re: @Ken Hagan Nobel?

And to think that I skipped a lot of classes taught by a person on this list!

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Boffin

Serious question...

...if that is possible.

The article makes reference to "north" and "south" in a number of places, eg

...the direction of the magnetic fields, which will change from running east-west to running north-south.

Right now, Voyager 1 is heading north while Voyager 2, at least 9 billion miles from the Sun, is moving south.

Are these directions with respect to Earth - and therefore does this mean the two craft are traveling up from, and down from the plane of the ecliptic, respectively?

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Re: Serious question...

Seems a good question, seems you are not the first to ask it: http://cosmoquest.org/forum/archive/index.php/t-58802.html

A fellow called Mugaliens enlightened that forum with "The Sun has a defined North and South Pole, as does the ecliptic, based on the motion around the pole being counterclockwise when viewed from the north.

An easy way to remember this is to take your right hand, curve your fingers in the direction of Earth's orbit around the sun, and stick your thumb up. Your thumb points North.Interesting, this is the same way I remember the lines of magnetic flux around a straight wire carrying a current."

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Boffin

Re: Serious question...

By convention, 'North' and 'South' in the context of the Solar System refer to positions relative to the plane of the ecliptic (defined as the plane in which the Earth orbits the sun), such that the rotation of the Solar System is counter-clockwise if viewed from 'North'. This is not the same as 'North' and 'South' as defined on Earth, as the Earth is tilted with respect to the plane of the ecliptic, so Earth's 'North' rotates in a circle approximately 23 degrees out from the Solar Systems' North.

A picture paints a thousand words, so here:

Stolen from Wikipedia

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Re: Serious question...

Thanks for that, when I said the Earth, I suppose I really meant the Sun.

So, in order to visit the outer planets, both these vehicles must have originally been launched in the plane of the ecliptic, is that correct? But they have now changed direction so that they are traveling at ninety degrees to it?

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Re: Serious question...

Interesting how you remember the magnetic field orientation. When I did O level physics they taught us Maxwell's Corkscrew Rule. Of course that's not very helpful if you don't drink wine ;-)

(PS nearly 30 years later (and absolutely no need to use it) and I still remember it - sign of a good mnemonic!)

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Re: Serious question...

They aren't going straight north/south, rather more like 'east-north-east' and 'east-south-east'. Direction change out of the ecliptic done by gravity boost at the last planet they visited, going over/under the poles.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fleming's LEFT-hand rule

Whilst as mentioned above one can use their right hand to remind themselves of the direction of the sun's poles, the one for electromagnetic induction involves the LEFT hand.

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I don't care if it makes me sound like a geek

This is cool!!

Earth's first visit to interstellar space and both craft have survived 35 years SO FAR.

North/South etc. are relative to the ecliptic plane. If they avoid the ecliptic then they are less likely to hit particles I guess.

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Astrophysics questions....

The article notes a rapidly escalating amount of galactic cosmic rays as Voyager goes through the 'heliosheath'. Are these 'rays' slowed and stopped or deflected by the effects of Sol? If so, is it a magnetic, electrostatic or electromagnetic effect? I can't imagine it would be particle interaction since everything out there is mostly empty space and I can't see how photons coming in would be affected at all.

Is it a boiling maelstrom of energetic 'stuff' on the outside of the heliosheath region or is this an increase which is only noticeable by sensitive instruments?

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Re: Astrophysics questions....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliosphere seems pertinant to your question. I'm not sure though, because it is making my brain hurt. I did note that the assumed model of what was happening was revised in 2009 due to data from the Cassini probe.

>I can't imagine it would be particle interaction since everything out there is mostly empty space

Very, very low pressure is still pressure.

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Re: Astrophysics questions....

Thank you Dave; I should have had the sense to try that first (and it made my brain hurt too). I'm extending my imagination to cover gaseous particle interactions that take place over many millions of miles with time intervals of days/months/years.

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Boffin

The ultimate engineering project

It must have been quite something to have been involved in building a machine that is still functioning after 35 years, has now left our solar system, and will be out there, somewhere, for thousands of years, if not eternity.

Now that's what you call leaving your mark.

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Re: The ultimate engineering project

After a couple of hundred years, it will be picked up by an advanced alien civilisation and given a refit/upgrade. (I saw a drama-documentary about that a few years ago on tv.)

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Re: The ultimate engineering project

Not sure the builders of the Great Wall of China would agree :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The ultimate engineering project

(I saw a drama-documentary about that a few years ago on tv.)

I think I saw that one, it had William Shatner in it...

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Re: The ultimate engineering project - couple of hundred years

Mind bogglingly, and going by my rough calculations, in a couple of hundred years time it will still have another 73800 years to travel at the current speed before reaching the distance of our nearest star. Unless it bumps into something on the way of course.

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Re: Eternity

It will evaporate(*) well before eternity. It will probably have evaporated before it next encounters a solar system (unless they managed to aim it precisely at one of our nearest neighbours a mere handful of light-years away).

(*) most things have a vapour pressure greater than that of interstellar space. Also it's being bombarded by high-energy particles.

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Re: Eternity/Evaporation

Interesting. I was taught that the vapour pressure in Earth orbit was greater than the vapour pressure of the metalic oxides forming the skin of space-craft. But we never looked at the numbers for interstellar space.

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I wish they made cars, computers, appliances and other products as reliable as the Voyagers.... When corporate America puts something to last, it will last. I hope they abandon planned obsolescence.

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Anonymous Coward

bah.

"I wish they made cars, computers, appliances and other products as reliable as the Voyagers.... "

My C64 still works fine, though the floppy disks are getting harder to read.

There are still plenty of 70's vintage cars and motorcycles running about, though not many around NY. I bet the Voyagers wouldn't be looking too hot if they had to deal with NYC taxis, snowpocalypses and salted roads.

Grandma's Hobart stand mixers, they're still chugging along and highly coveted by pastry chefs.

"When corporate America puts something to last, it will last. I hope they abandon planned obsolescence."

Well, when you basically have unlimited funding, you can build things to last.

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