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NASA Confirms That Voyager 1 Is Soaring Through Interstellar Space

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VoyagerVoyager 1 already had the distinction of being the man-made object that has travelled further from Earth than anything else we, as a species, have ever flung out into space, but that isn’t going to stop it from travelling deeper and deeper into the unknown. NASA confirms that the probe is indeed now travelling through interstellar space.

Back in August of 2012, Voyager made international headlines when it was announced that it had actually left the heliosphere. This is essentially a giant bubble of magnetic fields and charged particles that surround our sun and extends far past Pluto. Plasma from the sun, so-called solar wind, pushes against the pressure of the interstellar medium, which is the hydrogen and helium mixture that makes up much of our galaxy. Interstellar space begins where the heliosphere ends.

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Voyager 1 Carries Our Legacy Into The Universe In Gorgeous CGI Short Stardust

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“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.” Carl Sagan wrote those words in his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. It referred to the photograph that lent the book its name, a shot of Earth taken by Voyager 1. From a distance of some 3.7 billion miles, Earth looked like little more than “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” It’s one of those images that hammers home the sheer, awe-inspiring size of our cosmos, as well as our own fleeting existence when compared to the billions of years that stretch out behind and before us. The gorgeous short film Stardust, seen above, imagines our legacy carrying on, even if we do not, with Voyager 1 continuing its journey — and carrying the memory of us — long after our sun has died.

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President Jimmy Carter’s Voyager Letter To Any Theoretical Extraterrestrials Out There

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VoyagerThe Voyager 1 probe made history last month when scientists agreed that it had finally, officially ventured beyond our solar system and entered interstellar space. Even if Voyager’s distance traveled is not even a gnat’s eyelash when considered against the unfathomable scale of our universe, it was still an exciting landmark, one that reminds us that our species is capable of great accomplishments when we’re not so facedown in the mud that we lose sight of the stars.

You’ve all probably heard of the so-called “Golden Records” that were included on the Voyager craft. They contain tons of images, sounds, and information about our species and our world, designed to serve as a sort of time capsule of who and what we were at the time we sent Voyager 1 and 2 off into the void. They also contained copies of a letter from then-President Jimmy Carter, a greeting to any extraterrestrial explorers who might someday cross paths with Voyager. (Admittedly, a very unlikely scenario given the sheer size of our galaxy, and the comparative tininess of Voyager. But you never know.) While the aliens obviously wouldn’t speak English, the many different languages included on the Records would theoretically serve as a sort of Rosetta Stone to help them interpret our messages.

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The Creepy Sounds Of Interstellar Space

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The Voyager 1 spacecraft is the first man-made craft ever to leave the solar system and journey into interstellar space. It’s been exploring the cosmos for some 36 years, and is now venturing into far-out territory. Scientists monitoring the craft know that it’s moving through interstellar plasma, which is far denser than solar plasma. No one knows exactly what’s out there, but one thing we’d all probably suspect is that space is dark, cold, and eerily quiet.

We might have two out of three right, but apparently interstellar space isn’t the soundless expanse we’d expect. It does have a sound — and a really creepy one at that. It reminds me a bit of the screech of Babylon 5‘s Shadow vessels.

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Voyager 1 Boldly (And Historically) Goes Into Interstellar Space

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Voyager 1Voyager 1 has been journeying through space just longer than I’ve been journeying on Earth — 36 years. Now scientists know for sure that it’s the first man-made craft to exit our solar system and pass into interstellar place, having left the sun some 12 billion miles behind.

For the past year, Voyager 1 has been traversing “star stuff” — ionized gas otherwise known as plasma. It’s currently free of the sun’s gravitational pull and out of the solar system, but not free of all effects of the sun. It no longer has to use sunscreen, though.

The Voyager team is busy analyzing new data sent from Voyager 1 about the plasma it recently passed through and the space it’s currently traversing. Everything it registers is completely new, so scientists have a lot of work to do in terms of making sense of the information coming in, as well as figuring out what the new questions and gaps are. Like impatient kids in the back seat during a long road trip, scientists have been waiting in anticipation, asking “Are we there yet?” Finally, we are.

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Voyager 1 Explores The Boundaries Of Our Solar System

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Voy1Originally launched in 1977, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has traveled farther than anything else humans have hucked into space. Now it’s on the verge of breaking the grip of the Sun’s gravitational pull and leaving our Solar System. The deep-space explorer may still be months, or even years, from actually reaching interstellar space, but for the time being it is sending back a glut of information about the last reaches of our “solar bubble,” or heliopshere. Scientists have named this last vestige of our solar system “the magnetic highway.”

Ed Stone, a Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology, said, “This strange, last region before interstellar space is coming into focus, thanks to Voyager 1, humankind’s most distant scout.”

Voyager reached the magnetic highway on August 25, which is more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the Sun. If you’re keeping score, that’s 122 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

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