NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft is officially the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles from our Sun. New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars. Voyager is in a transitional region immediately outside the solar bubble, where some effects from our Sun are still noticeable.
"Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind's historic leap into interstellar space," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "The Voyager team needed time to analyze those observations and make sense of them. But we can now answer the question we've all been asking -- 'Are we there yet?' Yes, we are."
Voyager 1 first discovered the increased pressure of interstellar space on the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles surrounding the Sun that reaches far beyond the outer planets, in 2004. Scientists then ramped up their search for evidence of the spacecraft's interstellar arrival, knowing the data analysis and interpretation could take months or years. The plasma wave science team determined Voyager 1 first entered interstellar space in August 2012.
“Voyager has boldly gone where no probe has gone before, marking one of the most significant technological achievements in the annals of the history of science, and adding a new chapter in human scientific dreams and endeavors,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science in Washington. “Perhaps some future deep space explorers will catch up with Voyager, our first interstellar envoy, and reflect on how this intrepid spacecraft helped enable their journey.”
Read the full story on NASA's website.