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It's Official: Voyager 1 Is an Interstellar Probe

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the take-that-former-soviet-union dept.

Space 218

astroengine writes "After a 35-year, 11-billion mile journey, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft left the solar system to become the first human-made object to reach interstellar space, new evidence from a team of scientists shows. 'It's kind of like landing on the moon. It's a milestone in history. Like all science, it's exploration. It's new knowledge,' long-time Voyager scientist Donald Gurnett, with the University of Iowa, told Discovery News. The first signs that the spacecraft had left the solar system's heliopause was a sudden drop in solar particles and a corresponding increase in cosmic rays in 2012, but this evidence alone wasn't conclusive. Through indirect means, scientist analyzing oscillations along the probe's 10-meter (33-foot) antennas were able to deduce that Voyager was traveling through a less dense medium — i.e. interstellar space." You can watch NASA's briefing on the probe's progress here.

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218 comments

Obligatory XKCD (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833187)

http://xkcd.com/1189/

Re:Obligatory XKCD (5, Insightful)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 7 months ago | (#44833269)

The Voyager program has helped us define what the "solar system" actually is.

Re:Obligatory XKCD (0)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 7 months ago | (#44833579)

What is very curious is the quote, "...10-meter (33-foot) antennas were able to deduce that Voyager was traveling through a less dense medium..." That instellar space may not have much in the way of matter, but is filled with energies; that are measuareable.

Re:Obligatory XKCD (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44834501)

less dense? It took it 35 years to get out of the Congress...?

Screw the Obligatory XKCD (5, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about 7 months ago | (#44834385)

The Voyager program has helped us define what the "solar system" actually is.

XKCD is great but I'm with you on this...Voyager's data *literally* defined the solar system for us (i'm sure Randall Munroe is up on this and appropriately stoked)

IMHO there is a greater point here about space exploration.

What *is* space exploration? When something like the humble Voyager 1 probe can continue giving usable data for such a long time, it should cause us to ask, why haven't our other missions been as successful?

The Mars rovers are another example. [xkcd.com] When you consider the scale and complexity of their task, the rovers comparatively performed on par with Voyager 1.

You might say, "We can't plan for what it does after the mission is over, that's kind of the point of having a defined *mission plan*" and to that I say 'hogwash'

It is my firm belief that humans should be taking vacations on Luna *now* and soon stepping foot on Mars. We could do it.

Why aren't we?

I see the same answer in both questions I posed. The best way I can say it is 'operational space research'...

I'm not dogging the Hubble or satellites made to find WIMPS or w/e...I think that it is more a failure of VISION.

Everything we do in space should be based around the notion of iterative progression. Each mission serves a primary function but also has a *secondary* function which is to provide the basis for the **NEXT STEP OUT**

We've been chasing our tails for 20+ years with most of our NASA projects. Don't get me started on the Shuttle and ISS. I won't get into it b/c I get huge downmods every time...

No...my criticism is systemic.

NASA is a tool. Are we using it to its fullest?

Voyager 1's quiet incessant pinging tells me 'no'

Re:Obligatory XKCD (4, Funny)

dywolf (2673597) | about 7 months ago | (#44833661)

"No, we really mean it this time!"

Re:Obligatory XKCD (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 7 months ago | (#44834021)

Sounds like a function from PHP.

Astronomy_Is_In_Solar_System(X,Y,Z)

Is deprecated, please call

Astronomy_Real_Is_In_Solar_System(X,Y,Z)

Prepared statements can't help you this time.

Re:Obligatory XKCD (2)

aix tom (902140) | about 7 months ago | (#44833817)

The next big step will probably be when it gets a ticket for "flying outside our private property without a license plate"

Re:Obligatory XKCD (4, Funny)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about 7 months ago | (#44833821)

In mothers voice, "Damn it Voyager, In or out make up your mind and close the damn door."

In vain does the God of War growl (5, Interesting)

jomama717 (779243) | about 7 months ago | (#44833211)

With everything going on in the world I'm reminded of a hopeful quote:

"In vain does the God of War growl, snarl, roar, and try to interrupt with bombards, trumpets, and his whole tarantantaran ... let us despise the barbaric neighings which echo through these noble lands, and awaken our understanding and longing for the harmonies."

- Johannes Kepler

voyager has left the solar system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833217)

Again.

Re:voyager has left the solar system. (5, Funny)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 7 months ago | (#44833271)

They use the same math behind the Vista file copying progress bar to judge its distance.

Re:voyager has left the solar system. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#44833357)

They use the same math behind the Vista file copying progress bar to judge its distance.

Well, in fairness, any "x minutes to completion" is based on a projection -- you'd need to invent time travel to actually get it 100% right. This is true on any platform with a progress bar with a completion time in it.

So, at any given time you can make an estimate, but that's about it. If other things are happening which affect the estimate, it will change.

Mostly they're there to give you something to look at and let you know it hasn't died.

Re:voyager has left the solar system. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833375)

in fairness

Well, in fairness, there are good estimations, and there are bad estimations.

And then there's Vista.

Re:voyager has left the solar system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833497)

There are good estimations, there are bad ones, worse ones, horrible ones, catastrophic ones, and vista ones.

Re:voyager has left the solar system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833769)

No, it's "then there's Gnome".

With Gnome during a file copy, the progress bar leaps up to 99.999% completed as the bytes rapidly flow into memory. Then it stalls there for 1-2 minutes as the bytes are s-l-o-w-l-y copied out of memory to the USB stick. Absolutely the most useless progress bar I have ever seen.

That's with my version of Gnome (whatever on CentOS6.x). Fixed in later versions? I dunno. The real question is how such a bug managed to make it through testing. TESTING, you Gnome mutherf*ckers. Do you know what it is?

Re:voyager has left the solar system. (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 7 months ago | (#44833443)

The problem is that the UI needs to show BOTH:

ABSOLUTE bytes copied SO FAR (as in the "past)

RELATIVE time left (as in the "future")

Showing one (or the other) is not giving the user all the information they may need / want.

Re:voyager has left the solar system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833669)

Neither is particularly useful by itself.

Copying 1073741824 files, each 1 byte, takes a lot longer than copy a single one gigabyte file.

This is why estimates are so bad.

Re:voyager has left the solar system. (1)

filthpickle (1199927) | about 7 months ago | (#44833935)

The windows 8 file copy is actually pretty good. Look up a picture if you haven't seen it. So is.......well, I like the new task manager I guess.

LOL ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#44833237)

Well, this is, what, the 3rd time it's been 'official'?

I think I'll wait a few months before I believe it's officially official.

That's not to say this isn't highly cool -- I just am quite certain I've seen several variations on this over the last few years.

Re:LOL ... (1)

jacknifetoaswan (2618987) | about 7 months ago | (#44833261)

Most definitely. There were different times when it seemed like it had, and perhaps had, but I think at each phase, scientists were in disagreement upon what actually constitutes the edge of the solar system. I believe now, they're (at least mostly) completely in agreement.

Very cool, though!

Re:LOL ... (0)

Kittenman (971447) | about 7 months ago | (#44833367)

Well, this is, what, the 3rd time it's been 'official'?

I think I'll wait a few months before I believe it's officially official.

That's not to say this isn't highly cool -- I just am quite certain I've seen several variations on this over the last few years.

In a few months, we'll have another 'leaving'.

Rinse and repeat.

Re:LOL ... (4, Informative)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 7 months ago | (#44834261)

What they are actually announcing is that the data shows that it left the solar system in August of 2012. The news over the last year was that they weren't sure if it had left yet. The news now is that it did leave, a little over a year ago.

For the uninitiated: What is Vogager 1? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833241)

V'Ger is that which seeks the creator.

Re:For the uninitiated: What is Vogager 1? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#44833865)

Well, it didn't fall threw a black hole.

Besides Star Trek is only a few hundred years in the future. If trek was real life (it isn't), that would mean right out of our solar system is black hole, which I would say would be kinda scary.

NASA Visualization (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833253)

NASA appears to have a nice visualization of the spacecraft's position and the particle flux...

http://eyes.nasa.gov/launch2.html?document=$SERVERURL/content/documents/voyager/voyager_exit.html

Re:NASA Visualization (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833905)

This visualization is currently only supported on Mac OS and Windows machines. :(

Re:NASA Visualization (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44834561)

Is it just me or are other people reading that as NAS's Eyes.exe?

Thanks Obama! (4, Funny)

realmolo (574068) | about 7 months ago | (#44833263)

We have plenty of our own problems here on Earth! Why is a government-built probe going into interstellar space? Is Obama trying to make health-care truly "universal"? I suppose if our own "illegal aliens" get free health care, why shouldn't Andromedans?

Keep alien overlords out of my health care!

Re:Thanks Obama! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833441)

Actually it's a way for the NSA to share Americans personal information with Space Israel.

Re:Thanks Obama! (0)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about 7 months ago | (#44833447)

Launched in 1977... Yeah, Obama's fault!

Re:Thanks Obama! (5, Funny)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about 7 months ago | (#44833531)

Woosh...

The sound of Voyager leaving the solar system..... over your head. :-)

Re:Thanks Obama! (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 7 months ago | (#44833565)

Some would say, this is just another instance of Obama blaming his failures on his predecessor(s). ;-)

Re:Thanks Obama! (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 7 months ago | (#44833683)

Welcome to Slashdot. I see you are new to Slashdot as your sarcasm filters are apparently off. Please go to your internal settings and turn them on to continue to participate.

Re:Thanks Obama! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 months ago | (#44834279)

[Voyager] Launched in 1977... Yeah, Obama's fault!

Well, he does have the time machine he used to announce his birth in old HI newspapers so he could run for prez. Fox believes the machine's buried next to Hoffa.

Re:Thanks Obama! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44834389)

He heard (and JK has proof) that somewhere out there someone might be using WMD so he is obliged to bomb them! (I know it was launched in '77, don't you get the sarcasm?)

Really (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833265)

What about the Oort cloud?

I thought you didn't get to interstellar space until you got through that... and that's like 1000 years more.

Re:Really (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 7 months ago | (#44834297)

It sounds like a definition of the edge of the solar system is where the interstellar wind overtakes the solar wind. There is a line there, on one side of the line the solar wind is blowing away from the sun, and on the other side of the line the interstellar wind is blowing towards the sun. The line is where the force of the two is the same.

Except. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833267)

According to the story, it is actually Voyager 2 and it wen 13 Billion miles, not 11 Billion

Re:Except. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833527)

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun.

Well, maybe (0)

djupedal (584558) | about 7 months ago | (#44833283)

The last time this popped up, there was a near immediate retraction. Only NASA knows the definition of interstellar they are using using to quantify their claim, so we're obligated to take their word for it.

I suspect they were simply waiting for a slow news day so they could slot some publicity in. That's right..I went there.

Re:Well, maybe (1)

ledow (319597) | about 7 months ago | (#44833387)

I'd rather hear something about NASA work every day than the shit that graces my news channels.

Should have used a Jobs hologram (-1, Offtopic)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 7 months ago | (#44833285)

They should have used a CG Jobs "hologram" to do the iPhone 5 reveal like they did to resurrect Tupac. The fanboys would be creaming themselves over a new iNeedIt from their savior.

Very cool, but we are so primitve.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833293)

Imagine it taking 35 years to go from Chicago to Joliet.

Re:Very cool, but we are so primitve.. (1)

EMG at MU (1194965) | about 7 months ago | (#44833429)

That would still be too fast.

I would be fine if I never had to return to Joliet, the place modernity forgot.

What's powering Voyager? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833315)

I am assuming that the primary means of power is electricity from solar photons. Are there enough photons in interstellar space to power Voyager (sensors, communication, navigation, etc)?

Re:What's powering Voyager? (4, Informative)

ledow (319597) | about 7 months ago | (#44833355)

Voyager is nuclear.

It has about 10 years of power left.

Re:What's powering Voyager? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833633)

Voyager is nuclear.

No, it's American, which makes it nucular.

Say 'chowduh', Frenchy.

Re:What's powering Voyager? (2)

Nimey (114278) | about 7 months ago | (#44833509)

You'd be wrong. Voyager's power source is radiothermal. Past... not sure, Jupiter's orbit? there's not enough sunlight for photovoltaics to work effectively.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator [wikipedia.org]

Jupiter Juno Probe is solar (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 7 months ago | (#44834101)

Huge 60-foot panels. I think there was concern about the cost and shortage of plutonium. Just enough for 4-5 more generators in the civiilian stocks.

Have they broken through the Crystal Sphere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833377)

I'm a bit worried that they will break through the Crystal Sphere surrounding the solar system. I don't think we're ready to face the other civilizations just yet.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crystal_Spheres

How many times has it left? (2)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 7 months ago | (#44833379)

Seems like every few months, for the last 5 years, there's been a new claim that it has left the solar system.

Re:How many times has it left? (4, Informative)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 7 months ago | (#44833631)

Probably confirms the heliosphere isn't static and distorts; the edge has probably legitimately washed over Voyager that many times.

Re:How many times has it left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44834369)

Yes, like the Year of the Linux Desktop.

Re:How many times has it left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44834429)

it's like a crab walking out of the ocean.

Bark at the moon (2, Funny)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 7 months ago | (#44833451)

Putin to America: You're Not Special [cnn.com]

I'm sorry, Mr. Putin. I can't hear you over the sound of our own awesome.

Re:Bark at the moon (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 months ago | (#44833737)

Yeah so awesome. Now try to get your astronauts off the international space station without using a Soyuz capsule. Awesome.

Re:Bark at the moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833829)

Oh, for mod points... truly funny

Re:Bark at the moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44834291)

"The Codex Astartes names this maneuver Steel Rain"

Kudos to Harold Lippschitz (5, Interesting)

wcrowe (94389) | about 7 months ago | (#44833477)

Seventy four year old Harold Lippschitz, chief proponent and designer of Voyager's antenna oscillation meters, was quoted as saying, "Ha ha! They laughed at me years ago at NASA! I told them, 'You're gonna want those damn oscillation meters, they're important!', but the other guys just rolled their eyes and shook their heads. 'There goes Harold again,' they said. 'Jabbering about his damn little meters.' Well, who's laughing now, motherf***ers? Ha HA!"

Faster way of reaching interstellar space (1)

thisisauniqueid (825395) | about 7 months ago | (#44833537)

If reaching interstellar space and was the original goal, they could have flown in a direction perpendicular to the principal orbital plane of the solar system. We would have achieved the goal almost immediately.

Re:Faster way of reaching interstellar space (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#44833611)

Why? Do you/"we" know the helipause isn't spherical, or did you just assume it isn't? Or are you using another definition of "interstellar space"?

Re:Faster way of reaching interstellar space (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833921)

We pretty much know it isn't. We receive helium atoms here on earth from outside the solar system, and their general direction of travel has been used to posit an interstellar wind. Knowing it is unlikely that only helium atoms are traveling, we can infer that the remaining particles/energy distort the heliosphere, compressing it as it faces the incoming wind and elongating it in the other direction. And before you say so, since the earth goes the whole way around the sun (and we have probes in polar solar orbit), we're pretty sure that the energy coming out of the sun is essentially the same in any direction.

Re:Faster way of reaching interstellar space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44833971)

The heliosphere does not necessarily bulge out in the plane of the planets orbits, and so far evidence suggest it is not perfectly round, but bulging out in the north direction and closer to the sun in the south direction perpendicular to the orbital plane. But the distance would have still been pretty far, and need some gravity assists to do it on a cheap budget.

Welcome to our new Vulcan overlords! (1)

lp_bugman (623152) | about 7 months ago | (#44833711)

Sending a space ship past the solar system was the only thing holding alien razes from making themselves evident to us.

It's not enough... (1)

casca69 (795069) | about 7 months ago | (#44833713)

It's not enough we trash Earth's environment, the Moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturns moons, and various junk trash all over the planetary disk.. Now, we're dropping trash outta the SOLAR SYSTEM??? Man, wouldn't you hate to be the garbage crew on that clean up?

Really? (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 7 months ago | (#44833831)

I think they just gave up trying to quantify if it has actually left the solar system after years of false positives and debate, so they just made it official. 99.999999999% of us are not going to check, so its safe bet.

Slightly off topic, but now that Voyager has officially left the solar system, I hope that NASA could spend some time and explain to JJ Abrams that the Enterprise would not actually leave vapor trails that flutter and make a tinkling sound when it goes to warp since light does not crystallize into particles and space has no fucking "downward gravity" or wind or sound.

Seriously would Joss Whedon just beat the shit out of JJ and end it.

V'Ger is next (1)

tedgyz (515156) | about 7 months ago | (#44833871)

Beware all carbon-based life forms infecting planet Earth: ST:TMP [imdb.com]

[after Spock comments that, mentally, V'ger is a child]
Commander Leonard 'Bones' McCoy, M.D.: Spock, this "child" is about to wipe out every living thing on Earth. Now, what do you suggest we do? Spank it?
Commander Spock: It knows only that it needs, Commander. But, like so many of us... it does not know what.

And in a few hundred years... (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 7 months ago | (#44833983)

Voyager shall return to Earth from the Delta Quadrant with a non-plussed Captain, an uptight Hologram, a pointy eared Brother and a Cyborg.

Or was that Red Dwarf?

Is it strange that this is sort of a tear jerker? (5, Interesting)

DRMShill (1157993) | about 7 months ago | (#44834003)

Nasa launches this probe, about the same year that I was born, to study Saturn and Jupiter. Everything goes beautifully so it just keeps on flying. On Valentine's day 1990 just as it's about to leave the solar system they spin the camera around to take the "family portrait". Today it exits the solar system(I know for the 12th time or whatever). Now it just wanders off into the darkness while it's reactor runs down and it's systems shut off one at a time. Who knows, in a few billion years when the sun bakes this planet the golden record might be all that's left of us. Kind of like "The Inner Light" episode of Star Trek, but with less flute.

From this point forward... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44834113)

It demands to be called V-ger.

Dupe! (5, Funny)

Solandri (704621) | about 7 months ago | (#44834137)

This story has already appeared on Slashdot multiple times:

March 2013 [slashdot.org]
December 2011 [slashdot.org]
December 2010 [slashdot.org]
May 2005 [slashdot.org]
November 2003 [slashdot.org]

Is it too much to ask that the editors do their jobs and search for dupes before approving a submission?

Re:Dupe! (1)

DRMShill (1157993) | about 7 months ago | (#44834441)

I'm not sure if you're joking or not but just in case you aren't, we don't have a completely solid understanding of where exactly the solar system ends. That's why this comes up like this. Well that and slashdot dupes.

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