What the Voyager probes should see next: Oort cloud, other stars

What the Voyager probes should see next: Oort cloud, other stars

What the Voyager probes should see next: Oort cloud, other stars

  • Voyagers 1 and 2 explore the mysterious region between stars called interstellar space.
  • NASA launched the double probes in 1977 for a five-year mission to traverse the solar system.
  • According to the space agency, it would take Voyager 1 40,000 years to reach another star.

Some 14.8 billion miles of the earth, the Voyager 1 probe sails through the darkness of the interstellar medium — the undiscovered space between stars. It is the farthest man-made object from our planet.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched within 16 days of each other in 1977 with a design life of five years to closely study Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their respective moons.

utilities 45 years in their missionthey have each made history by boldly venturing beyond the boundary of our sun’s influence known as the heliopause.

Both courageous spacecraft continue to send back data from beyond the solar system – and their cosmic journeys are far from over.

A diagram showing both of NASA's Voyager probes in interstellar space as of November 2018.

A diagram showing both of NASA’s Voyager probes in interstellar space as of November 2018.


NASA/JPL-Caltech



In 300 years Voyager 1 could see the Oort cloud and in 296,000 years Voyager 2 could pass Sirius

As part of a ongoing energy management efforts that has increased in recent years, engineers have turned off non-technical systems aboard the Voyager probes, such as their science instrument heaters, in hopes of keeping them going until 2030.

After that, the probes will likely lose their ability to communicate with Earth.

But even after NASA shuts down their instruments and ends the Voyager mission, the twin probes will continue to drift in interstellar space.

NASA said that in 300 years Voyager 1 would enter the Oort cloud, a hypothetical spherical belt full of billions of frozen comets. It should take another 30,000 years to reach its end.

An illustration of the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud in relation to our solar system.

An illustration of the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud in relation to our solar system.

NASA



The spacecraft takes different paths as they head into deep space. Voyager 2 is only about 12.3 billion miles from Earth today.

It would take the Voyager 1 probe about 40,000 years to reach AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation Camelopardalis, according to NASA.

The agency added that Voyager 2 should drift past Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, in about 296,000 years.

“The Voyagers are destined — perhaps forever — to roam the Milky Way,” NASA said.

Hubble Space Telescope image of Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky.

Hubble Space Telescope image of Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky.

NASA, ESA, H. Bond (STScI) and M. Barstow (University of Leicester)



‘It’s really remarkable that both spacecraft are still operating’

NASA designed the twin spacecraft to study the outer solar system. After completing their primary mission, the Voyagers continued to chug along, making a grand tour of our solar system and capturing breathtaking cosmic views.

On February 14, 1990, the Voyager 1 space probe captured the “Light blue dotimage from nearly 4 billion miles away. It’s an iconic image of Earth within a scattered beam of sunlight, and it’s the farthest view of Earth ever captured by a spacecraft.

The iconic "Light blue dot" photo taken by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990.

The iconic “Pale Blue Dot” image taken by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990.

NASA/JPL-Caltech



Last decadeVoyager 1 has explored interstellar space, which is full of gas, dust and charged energetic particles. Voyager 2 reached interstellar space 2018six years after his twin brother.

Their observations of the interstellar gas they move through has revolutionized astronomers’ understanding of this unexplored space beyond our own cosmic backyard.

“It’s really remarkable that both spacecraft are still working and working well — minor glitches, but working extremely well and still returning this valuable data,” said Suzanne Dodd, the project manager for the Voyager mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, previously. told Insideradding, “They’re still talking to us.”



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