2013 May Be the Year Voyager 1 Becomes the First Interstellar Spacecraft

The craft is very close to leaving the Solar System

By on December 14th, 2012 22:11 GMT

Voyager 1 is the man-made object farthest away from home, some 18 billion kilometers or 11 billion miles away from the Sun. It's been flying for 35 years to get there, so it's going to remain the farthest object for decades to come.

It takes 17 hours for signals from the spacecraft to reach Earth, even though they're traveling at the speed of light, and Voyager 1 hasn't even left the Solar System.

It's getting very close though, recently, NASA has confirmed what amateur astronomers and professionals keeping an eye on the public data coming from the craft have known for a few months, Voyager is very close to leaving the Solar System and has entered yet another new region at its outer edges.

The tell-tale signs started showing up last summer and in the months since, scientists have been able to confirm that Voyager 1 is indeed seeing something new.

In fact, if it were for one detail, NASA would be positioning Voyager 1 outside of the Solar System.

There are several signs that scientists look for, an increase in high-energy particles from interstellar space and a drop in low-energy particles originating in the sun.

Finally, they also expect to see a change in the direction of the magnetic field surrounding the craft. So far, just the first two have been confirmed.

But NASA is convinced that Voyager is very, very close to exiting the Solar System and becoming the first interstellar man-made object. It estimates that this could happen as early as next year, but it could take a couple of years.

Granted, this region of space has reserved plenty of surprises so far, so it's hard to make accurate estimates.

With some luck though, Voyager 1 should be leaving us behind for good in 2013. The craft still has a few years of service left, so it's going to be providing data on a region of space we know next to nothing of.
Voyager 1 in the magnetic highway
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   Voyager 1 in the magnetic highway

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