back to article Boffins claim Voyager has already left the Solar System

There's a boffin battle brewing at the fringe of the Solar System. At issue is whether the venerable Voyager 1 spacecraft has left the region where Sol's electromagnetic winds blow, or is still in the tiny pocket of space we call home. The “we're outta here” camp has penned a letter in The Astrophysics Journal titled “A porous …

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Where we have equipment is unimportant.

What's important is what we are learning from that equipment.

Egos need to stand down, and look at raw data.

EOF

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Re: Where we have equipment is unimportant.

Egos? I don't see any egos here. This just seems to be normal academic debate with two competing theories.

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It kind of makes sense

Put two magnets near each other, and their fields line up, reorienting the magnets positions.

Kind of makes sense that eventually a star would orient its field to the galactic one.

After all, isn't the galactic field just the sum of all the fields of the stars, neutron stars, magnetars, quasars, what-have-you, anyway? And all those fields'll be seeking equilibrium.

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Are you talking about the Galaxy?

Just to be sure, you aren't talking about time alignment of anything else... These thing do flip around, no?

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Boffin

Re: It kind of makes sense

I take it that you are not aware that the sun's magnetic field inverts every eleven years or so then?

Solar Cycle

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Coat

Obligatory xkcd reference

xkcd: Voyager 1

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Re: Obligatory xkcd reference

Am waiting for the crash and tinkle when it hits the crystal sphere

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Coat

Re: Obligatory xkcd reference

"Am waiting for the crash and tinkle when it hits the crystal sphere"

It's happened, but the sound hasn't reached us yet.

To anybody thinks there's no sound in space: you're wrong; it's just very, very, very quiet.

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Obligatory Crystal Spheres reference

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crystal_Spheres

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So Voyager 1 and 2 will constitute the *only* datasets for this problem

Up till now it's all been models.

I'm not sure how well they work at what I presume are very low and very large interacting magnetic fields.

Thumbs up for explaining how some of the signs of leaving the solar system could be detected and not others.

As a physicist observed about another debate "We are in a state of such confusion we will definitely learn something"

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MrT
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Pioneer probes also provided some earlier data...

... McKibben at al noted that the boundary layer pulses in response to the solar minimum/maximum by as much as 150AU, (paper here). Also, we're observing that the sun is about to go through a magnetic inversion. The heliopause might catch up and pass Voyager again.

The press reporting seems to expect something definitive, like a 'wall' in space, but that's a silly analogy - it's more like a sponge that soaks and dries out, with occasional big squeezes when it all lines up together. Voyager is just taking another wash on the edge of the solar system basin... nothing like a wall.

:-)

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Joke

Re: We are in a state of such confusion we will definitely learn something"

Such as: "Actually, we have learned that we are even more confused than previously thought!" :-)

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Re: Pioneer probes also provided some earlier data...

Just what is the speed of gravity anyway?

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Go

Re: Pioneer probes also provided some earlier data...

AFAIK it's same as the speed of light.

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Re: So Voyager 1 and 2 will constitute the *only* datasets for this problem

Very likely there will be no sharp transition to be found, much like the 'transition' from Earth's atmosphere to outer space. Last I had heard, space begins at 100km altitude, because it is a nice round number, but atmosphere is still detectable beyond that point.

We may simply define interstellar space as beginning at some distance agreed upon, again much like "wogs begin at Calais".

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Re: Pioneer probes also provided some earlier data...

isnt speed of light the limiting factor of current measurement methods based on observation models?

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Alien

Re: So Voyager 1 and 2 will constitute the *only* datasets for this problem

Very likely there will be no sharp transition to be found, much like the 'transition' from Earth's atmosphere to outer space. Last I had heard, space begins at 100km altitude, because it is a nice round number, but atmosphere is still detectable beyond that point."

I agree. There will always be debate, even if there is a consensus definition, about where the edge of the solar system is. It will always be an arbitrarily defined sphere simply because it's not a "wall". The location of where the solar wind balances out against incoming "galactic wind" is sure to vary over time so the definition of the edge of the solar system is, by definition, a variable within limits.

Who's to say that the consensus won't evolve to be the out reaches of Plutos orbit? Or some other arbitrary factor.

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Re: So Voyager 1 and 2 will constitute the *only* datasets for this problem

I'm starting to get flashbacks to 'A Fire Upon the Deep' here.

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Alien

Re: Pioneer probes also provided some earlier data...

"...The press reporting seems to expect something definitive, like a 'wall' in space, but that's a silly analogy..."

Sounds like your average media clown has been watching too much Star Trek.

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Re: So Voyager 1 and 2 will constitute the *only* datasets for this problem

"Very likely there will be no sharp transition to be found, much like the 'transition' from Earth's atmosphere to outer space..."

Good point. This is why many cite the altitude record-setting X15 flights as "space" flights as they reached or exceeded 100km:

http://www.astronautix.com/flights/x15ght91.htm

"...Unofficial world altitude record. Maximum Speed - 6105 kph. Maximum Altitude - 107960 m. Second X-15 astronaut flight (FAI definition); fifth astronaut wings flight (USAF definition)..."

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Re: Pioneer probes also provided some earlier data...

Believe it or not, if it took gravity any time to reach us, the earth would be orbiting where the sun WAS when the gravity left the sun. Regardless of the time involved, the result would be an unsustainable orbit. We would spiral into the sun or off into space. Every appropriate experiment shows that earth's orbit is around where the sun really is. So you have a choice, either gravity is instantaneous, or gravity as a 'thing' doesn't exist, but is actually a curvature of space caused by mass -as postulated by Einstein. Or maybe something even stranger...

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Carbon Units

This Carbon Unit for one will quietly await V'gers return to be dealt with by Kirk, Spock et al

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Happy

Good Stuff

Nearly four decades on, Voyager is still bringing us new discoveries and pushing back the frontiers of human knowledge.

Who thinks Voyager should get the Nobel prize for Physics?

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Alien

They expect a customs barrier?

They make it sound like they're expecting the craft to come across a big fence with a border crossing checkpoint on it, with a little green man in a flying saucer waiting to check its passport. Plus probably a big sign saying "the Universe welcomes careful fliers" or something.

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Re: They expect a customs barrier?

It almost sounds like they're expecting a demarcation point as accurately defined as the US Canada border, even in the wilderness.

(If you've never seen the pictures, whack 'forest border between United States and Canada' into your favorite image search engine).

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Re: They expect a customs barrier?

As far as I'm concerned it's all good as long as I don't hear a news report claiming "scientists say this morning's unprecedented solar eclipse is no cause for alarm."

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Re: They expect a customs barrier?

Well said. It's not exactly The Truman Show out there.

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Re: They expect a customs barrier?

Y'mean, like this one?

That's just friggin' sad, man.

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Coat

Re: They expect a customs barrier?

Yup, that is just friggin' sad.

Worse still, you're not even allowed intimate contact with your significant other while cross-border rambling.

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Parents eh?

FFS, just let the kid go find its own mates for once -- I didn't know it had an ASBO and was tagged.

(I expect Dr Evil to be along soon with a secondhand space vehicle capture machine bought cheaply off Ebay from 'BondH8er' )

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Happy

Clearly we need more research. Let's build some more Voyagers.

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"Clearly we need more research. Let's build some more Voyagers."

Well...

One of the NIAC presentations to NASA was an investigation into (IIRC) using solar sails for this and with a Voyager sized payload they reckoned they could get from Earth to where Voyager is in about 10 years, not 35 to 40 years.

IIf you did that a Voyager 2.0 mission could do this one of 2 ways. 1)Same instrument suite but implemented with modern technology, giving the same capability at much smaller size (handy as there are no more Titans available, although a Delta IV Heavy would probably as well, and a F9H definitely would help). JPL has been busy in 4 decades gradually whittled the weight down quite a bit.

Or keep them and add a bunch more.

I'll take a wild stab here and say they won't be staying with the the nibble serial 16 bit CMOS processor (1 4 bit ALU chip with lots of registers clocked at 4KHz. No that 's not a typo) architecture.

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Headmaster

Nybble!

Because it's half a byte, see?

Oh those witty early IT types.

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Go

Deffo

Rev it up! Lets not bothering to take too many pics on the way out. Perhaps perpendicular to the eclipse this time? Can you imagine a true top down view of the solar system?

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Re: "Clearly we need more research. Let's build some more Voyagers."

One of the NIAC presentations to NASA was an investigation into (IIRC) using solar sails for this and with a Voyager sized payload they reckoned they could get from Earth to where Voyager is in about 10 years, not 35 to 40 years.

I think I can see an issue with using solar sails: beyond the heliopause they become interstellar-medium sails and the probe gets blown back again. Or way off course. Or somewhere.

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Boffin

Re: "Clearly we need more research. Let's build some more Voyagers."

"I think I can see an issue with using solar sails: beyond the heliopause they become interstellar-medium sails and the probe gets blown back again. Or way off course. Or somewhere."

No problem - eject said solar sails, and switch to nuclear power.

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Quiet ! Science is progressing.

Concerning the heliosphere, we know nothing, for the time being we only have educated guesses.

Now we are learning about it while going through it - it is going to take some time and there will be heated debate before a consensus is reached. So let us just note that new theories about the heliosphere are forming, which is a good thing, and monitor scientific progress for the next five years without worrying too much about it.

In the next decade, scientists will have worked it out. In the meantime, it's just too soon to comment.

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Does nobody watch those old documentaries anymore??

If you did you'd know Voyager is in the Delta Quadrant, and has been for years!

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Didn't you see the final episode?

comment

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Re: Didn't you see the final episode?

Nah, that was all just a dream...

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Can't we just agree...

That it's really, really far away from our tenuous little bubble of air and that it's worked amazingly well? I hope I live a long, long life and that the Voyager probes outlive me.

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Alien

Re: Can't we just agree...

6 centuries from now the Earth will get an Penalty Charge Notice from little green Enforcement Officer for littering and a court summons with note of 2500 space credits and possible criminal record for space littering.

Then we gonna get some green ballifs coming in and impounding moon for non paying up!

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Re: Can't we just agree...

Either that, or a call from Voyager saying he's in an interstellar holding cell for crossing the border without proper papers

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Bah!

If the so-called "scientists" had concentrated on agreeing to and writing down the radius of The Solar System instead of bickering about stupid stuff like how Pluto isn't a planet this would be a non issue.

But then what would these useless wastes of astrophysical space argue about?

>8oP

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Mushroom

Re: Bah!

The solar system ends with the Oort cloud that reaches about 50000 AU from the sun

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oort_cloud

You are an american?

Only americans give a shit if Pluto is a planet or a plutoid.

No matter what you call Pluto, it still orbiting the sun and don't give a shit what it's called

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Re: Bah!

True enough. What the scientific argument is about is if the probes have left the magnetic bubble created by Sol.

As for Pluto, doesn't matter where I observe it, even if it were under foot. This American firmly believes that it is simply a smallish chunk of rubble that isn't on anything resembling a planetary orbit that corresponds with the planets of this solar system.

It's only rubble left behind from the old mass relay. ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Jeez guys

this is a bit heavy for Friday afternoon. Can't you run a story about Paris Hilton?

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FAIL

That means that Sedna is not a part of our solar system?

Voyager 1 is about 125 AU from the sun.

Sednas aphelium is about 1009 AU from the sun.

Many of our comets aphelium is 10000 AU to 20000 AU from the sun

Oorts cloud is reaches about 50000 AU or one light year from the sun

Just because protons can not leave the sun's gravitational field does not mean that the solar system ends.

It just means that the sun's gravitational field really reach out there and even longer.

Wake me when Voyager 1 actually leaves the solar system.

It ought to be about year 16,013 after Christ

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What we absolutely know for certain is that Voyager is most definitely outside of the solar system. Unless it's still inside of the solar system.

The only way we'll be certain is with a shitload more measurements over the course of months to years, possibly even a decade.

But, for each inch the probes move outward, we forge new scientific measurements and new firsts.

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