Voyager 1, a NASA’s unmanned spacecraft, is on the verge of a historical event – it is at the edge of the solar system and is the only earth vessel that reached this frontier. Voyager 2, it’s “sibling”, follows Voyager 1 3.2 mln kilometers (2 mln miles) behind.
Both spacecrafts were launched in 1977 with the official purpose to study the Jupiter and Saturn planetary systems, but they’re obviously capable of continuing their operations even beyond the Solar System frontiers. The two probes were ordered by NASA and built by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
The latest discovery made by Voyager 1 at the edge of the Solar System is the so-called “magnetic highway”. This is a layer of the space where particles from the Sun try to “escape” in the deep space, and also particles from the galaxy try to enter in the Solar System. In fact, the entire Solar System exists in a balloon of solar particles called heliosphere.
The scientific team can’t exactly predict when crossing of this frontier will happen. It may occur after few months or after few years.
The spacecraft is powered by nuclear energy which uses plutonium-238 as a power source. This energy will be enough till 2020, when NASA will start shutting off the remaining 5 functional tools one by one in order to save energy.
video: magnetic highway