London: Deep space probe Voyager 1 is revealing new signs that it may have exited our solar system, which would make it the first man-made object to reach deep space.
NASA scientists have said that they would need to observe three things to be certain that Voyager has actually travelled across the edge of our solar system: an increase in high-energy cosmic rays originating from outside our solar system; a drop in the level of lower-energy charged particles coming from our sun; and a change in the direction of the magnetic field detected by the spacecraft.
Scientists have previously revealed that Voyager 1 observed a sustained increase in galactic cosmic rays in previous months and that there’s been a dramatic drop in charged particles from the sun striking the craft.
The only question that remains is whether the magnetic field affecting Voyager has changed, and for that the data is not yet definitive, Chron’s SciGuy blog reports.
However, Texas A ‘n’ M University astronomer Nick Suntzeff told the blog that based on the precipitous fall in the detection of charged particles, something is definitely going on that NASA should comment on.
“Even without the magnetometer data, the Voyager 1 data shows that it has gone through a huge barrier at the edge of the solar system,” the Daily Mail quoted Professor Suntzeff as telling SciGuy.
Even without data to show the decoupling of the magnetic fields, the astronomer added, ‘the fact remains that the satellite has gone through a discontinuity in cosmic ray fluxes that is incredible.
“It is interacting with the boundary of the Solar System. I think that the data stand on their merit – something wonderful has happened,” Professor Suntzeff said.
Voyager 1 set off on its epic journey 35 years ago and for some months researchers have expected it to finally hit the solar system’s edge.
September 5 marked the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1’s launch to Jupiter and Saturn. It is now flitting around the fringes of the solar system, which is enveloped in a giant plasma bubble.
This hot and turbulent area is created by a stream of charged particles from the sun. Outside the bubble is a new frontier in the Milky Way - the space between the stars.
Once it ploughs through, scientists expect a calmer environment by comparison.
When that would happen is anyone’s guess. Voyager 1 is in uncharted celestial territory. One thing is clear: The boundary that separates the solar system and interstellar space is near, but it could take days, months or years to cross that milestone.
Voyager 1 is currently more than 11billion miles from the sun. Its twin, Voyager 2, which celebrated its launch anniversary two weeks ago, trails behind at 9billion miles from the sun.