Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Leaving the Solar System

There was an interesting story today in the BBC about the NASA space probe Voyager 1, and how it is nearing the edge of our solar system. Voyager 1 has traveled the farthest of all the vessel to be launched from Earth. It will be the first space probe to ever leave our solar system.

Launch of Voyager 1.
Source: Wikimedia Commons. 
What I found so interesting about the Voyager 1 probe is that it was launched in 1977, making it 33 years old. This machine has been collecting and transmitting data about space back to Earth for longer than I have been alive. I think that is pretty amazing, and it is a testament to engineering that NASA's scientists were able to make a machine that could still function properly after all this time.

Voyager 1 and its partner Voyager 2 were initially launched to survey the outermost planets in our solar system: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Voyager 2 is nowhere near the edge of the solar system however, because after it was finished with the outer planets in 1989 it was put on a much slower course than Voyager 1.

According to researchers, Voyager 1 should cross the threshold outside of our solar system sometime in the next five years, so this story will definitely be coming up in the news again in the future.

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