Voyager 1 to bid adieu to the solar system
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Last Updated: Wednesday, September 05, 2012, 10:38
  
Zeenews Bureau

Pasadena: On Wednesday, Voyager 1 will mark its 35th anniversary of launching to Jupiter and Saturn.

Since its launch, Voyager 1- a first time manmade object, has travelled billions of miles and now after thirty-five years of leaving the Earth, it is all set burst out of the solar system bubble and enter a new realm of space.

When NASA's Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 first rocketed out of Earth's grip in 1977, no one knew how long they would live. Now, they are the longest-operating spacecraft in history and the most distant, at billions of miles from Earth but in different directions.

Outside the solar system bubble is a new frontier in the Milky Way - the space between stars. Once it plows 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 11 billion miles from the sun. Twin Voyager 2, which celebrated its launch anniversary two weeks ago, trails behind at 9 billion miles from the sun.

They're still ticking despite being relics of the early Space Age.

Each has only 68 kilobytes of computer memory. To put that in perspective, the smallest iPod — an 8-gigabyte iPod Nano — is 100,000 times more powerful. Each also has an eight-track tape recorder. Today's spacecraft use digital memory.

The Voyagers' original goal was to tour Jupiter and Saturn, and they send back postcards of Jupiter's big red spot and Saturn's glittery rings. They also beamed home a torrent of discoveries: erupting volcanoes on the Jupiter moon Io; hints of an ocean below the icy surface of Europa, another Jupiter moon; signs of methane rain on the Saturn moon Titan.

Voyager 2 has journeyed to Uranus and Neptune. It remains the only spacecraft to fly by these two outer planets. Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to catapult itself toward the edge of the solar system.

The double missions so far have cost $983 million in 1977 dollars, which translates to $3.7 billion now. The spacecrafts have enough fuel to last until around 2020.

By that time, scientists hope, Voyager will already be floating between the stars.

(With Agency inputs)


First Published: Wednesday, September 05, 2012, 10:25


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