Jump on the Magnetic Highway and ride to interstellar space.
December 3, 2012 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Voyager One, the furthest man made object from earth, recently entered the boundary between the heliosphere and interstellar space. Scientists from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have nicknamed this boundary area the Magnetic Highway.
posted by Roger_Mexico (35 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
It is just a matter of time until it returns to Earth as Veger.
posted by Flood at 3:15 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Almost as dumbfounding to me as the fact that humanity has (nearly) reached heliopause is the fact that the dingus is still functioning with 1977 electronics.

Testimony to the preservative powers of vacuum? Or did Radio Shack really have its shit together then?
posted by Egg Shen at 3:16 PM on December 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


Watch out for smokeys, li'l fella.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:25 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Testimony to the preservative powers of vacuum? Or did Radio Shack really have its shit together then?

Voyager 1's solar wind detector stop functioning in 1990, so there's that. The heliosphere is being inferred by other instruments.

But overall, the probe was designed to last awhile, so it does.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:25 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


1981
Earth
Woah, gas giants are awesome!

Voyager 1
No kidding, huh? Got some great shots though. We have a couple more, then it's a long stretch.

2004
Earth
Are we there yet?

Voyager 1
Nope, not yet. We just passed the Termination Shock.

2010
Earth
Are we there yet?

Voyager 1
Almost. Not quite. That's just the end of the Solar Wind.

2012
Earth
Are we there yet? How much longer to Interstellar Space?

Voyager 1
Look, if you don't stop asking, I'm turning this probe right around! I'm serious! I'll do it!
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:26 PM on December 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


Testimony to the preservative powers of vacuum? Or did Radio Shack really have its shit together then?

It's not so much the year it was built but who made it and for what purpose. NASA briefly considered fitting Voyager with the electrical system from a 1977 Jaguar XJ12, but then changed its mind.
posted by The World Famous at 3:31 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amazing. And pathetic that we've just given up on space exploration in favor of arguing over who's magical sky wizard is the best and the sex lives of young women.
posted by fshgrl at 3:33 PM on December 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


fshgrl, we haven't given up. We've yet to begin.
posted by run"monty at 3:38 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amazing. And pathetic that we've just given up on space exploration in favor of arguing over who's magical sky wizard is the best and the sex lives of young women.

Is that really what happened?
posted by The World Famous at 3:49 PM on December 3, 2012


The sad thing is that this was launched before I was born and it is still slow going. Makes it hard to get too excited about any new extra-solar probes being launched, unless they're going many, many times faster.
posted by brenton at 3:51 PM on December 3, 2012


Well, we have diverted a lot of resources towards solid gold bathtubs for the 1% too. I forgot that.
posted by fshgrl at 3:51 PM on December 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


The sad thing is that this was launched before I was born and it is still slow going. Makes it hard to get too excited about any new extra-solar probes being launched, unless they're going many, many times faster.

I do not understand this. I remember well when Voyager was launched, I was just a kid, it was an exciting thing, and now I think this is pretty cool and also a really clear illustration of just how goddamn big the solar system is.

Kids these days.
posted by ambrosia at 4:03 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


how goddamn big the solar system is

The scientific term is "ginormous".
posted by Egg Shen at 4:07 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I do not understand this.

It's sad to me because it means there isn't going to be extra-solar data from a probe in my lifetime, except what Voyager provides. Granted, I'm thankful for what Voyager will give, but it will still be in the Oord cloud when I'm gone.

It's not sad because I'm disappointed with it, but because I wish there were more of them.
posted by brenton at 4:10 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's sad to me because it means there isn't going to be extra-solar data from a probe in my lifetime, except what Voyager provides.

On the plus side, we actually have exo-planets we can aim probes at. Didn't have that too many years ago.

Exo-planets. And weird ones at that.
posted by Mezentian at 4:15 PM on December 3, 2012


On the plus side, we actually have exo-planets we can aim probes at.

If Voyager 1 was headed directly to the exoplanet orbiting Alpha Centauri, it would take 79,311 years to get there.
posted by Egg Shen at 4:26 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess Voyager 1 is taking the slow train to dawn.
posted by Mezentian at 4:35 PM on December 3, 2012


Granted, I'm thankful for what Voyager will give, but it will still be in the Oord cloud when I'm gone.

Unless I've got my numbers wrong, you would have to live to be more than 14,000 years old to be alive when it reaches even the inner edge of the Oort cloud, which is nearly a light-year out from the Sun. Per Wikipedia, Voyager is at about 123 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun; the Oort cloud is at 50,000 times that distance.
posted by XMLicious at 4:37 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Long, long, long way to go before the Oort cloud.
posted by Egg Shen at 4:49 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


NASA briefly considered fitting Voyager with the electrical system from a 1977 Jaguar XJ12, but then changed its mind.

Then it would be totally fucked on cold mornings.
posted by the noob at 5:22 PM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


how goddamn big the solar system is

The scientific term is "ginormous".


I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space!
posted by hippybear at 5:28 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


we've just given up on space exploration

Right now, space exploration is driven by human curiousity, science. It is a fickle driving motivation.

As soon as there is a viable financial reason to go to space, it will explode. I don't know what financial drivers might be (tourism, zero-g manufacturing, whatever...), but some reason will emerge - and that will get us out there quick.
posted by Flood at 5:29 PM on December 3, 2012


Then it would be totally fucked on cold mornings.

Not just the cold ones, and not just the mornings.
posted by The World Famous at 5:34 PM on December 3, 2012


Take that ants! Let's see you throw a Chuck Berry record that goddam far.
Overlords my ass.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:37 PM on December 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Almost as dumbfounding to me as the fact that humanity has (nearly) reached heliopause is the fact that the dingus is still functioning with 1977 electronics.

My Pioneer SX-650 would like you to take that ageist slur back, sir.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:46 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's busy preparing the carbon units to be patterned for data storage.
posted by prepmonkey at 6:41 PM on December 3, 2012


Every time there is an announcement about some new Voyager I milestone, I get a new appreciation for just how limited humanity's exploration of the cosmos is. A 35 year mission that still isn't in interstellar space! Is that the best we can do? Is that the best that's physically possible?

If everyone doesn't mind me asking this here instead of over on Ask [I'll gladly move it there if people feel strongly about it]... would it be possible for us to launch a probe today that could (eventually) catch up and pass Voyager I? Using presently existing technology (fancy ion drives, etc, permitted provided they are more real than proposed theoretical thorium fusion power plant designs; something proven we could actually start building working versions of today), and with a budget of, say, the modern equivalent of an Apollo program?
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:04 PM on December 3, 2012


ceribus peribus: Absolutely. Check out Project Orion. The physics are simple and worked out decades ago. Top speed of about 10% of the speed of light.

All we have to get over is the whole exploding nuclear weapons in the atmosphere thing for the first few hundred miles. But then we are all set. Alpha Centuri in decades!
posted by rockindata at 7:30 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I get so depressed any time somebody brings up Project Orion. A technology so humongous, awe-inspiring, and capable of such gigantic results and we've just completely shelved it because it's too expensive and dangerous.
posted by sunnichka at 8:08 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am so enjoying this sort of late-life comeback of Voyager into public consciousness. We keep getting peeps of news in the last couple of years and I love it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:23 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks rockindata; very interesting.

I knew about Project Pluto and the flying crowbar thanks to curious researching inspired by cstross's A Colder War, but had somehow forgotten or overlooked the technology's obvious deep space exploration applications.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:42 PM on December 3, 2012


You can't use a Project Pluto-style engine in space. It's a ramjet. You can't use ramjets in space, unless you're talking about a Bussard ramjet.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 6:06 AM on December 4, 2012


I initially read the headline as "NASA Voyager 1 Encounters New Religion in Deep Space" and was about ready to have my mind completely blown.

(as it happens, it was still blown, but not completely. I can still function at work today... at least, as much as usual)
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:58 AM on December 4, 2012


>Unless I've got my numbers wrong, you would have to live to be more than 14,000 years old to be alive when it reaches even the inner edge of the Oort cloud

You see, this is exactly what I'm talking about.

And dang, I forgot it was so far away.
posted by brenton at 8:51 AM on December 4, 2012


Phil Plait (now at Slate): Voyager 1 Spacecraft on the Doorstep to Interstellar Space
posted by homunculus at 2:31 PM on December 4, 2012


« Older For the past few years, Topless Robot has run a co...  |  That rover the United States s... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments