NASA's Voyager 1 Captures Fastest Pace of Changes on Edge of Solar System
August 8, 2012 8:30 AM
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On July 28, levels of high-energy cosmic ray particles originating from outside our solar system increased by 5 percent
NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft managed to catch the fastest rate of changes on the edge of the solar system.
The Voyager 1 is a NASA space probe that was launched in 1977 to study the outer solar system. It is now in the heliosheath, which is which is the outermost layer of the heliosphere. This area is
, and acts as the outer layer of the bubble of charged particles that surrounds the sun.
The Voyager 1 has been studying this bubble of charged particles, and in doing so, caught the fastest rate of change in two of three signs of changes expected to occur at this particular area. The three signs of changes are the rate in which levels of high-energy cosmic ray particles increase, the rate in which lower-energy particles decrease, and the direction of the magnetic field.
On July 28, levels of high-energy cosmic ray particles originating from outside our solar system increased by 5 percent. In the last half of that same day, lower-energy particles originating from inside our solar system decreased by half. Three days later, all levels returned to normal. This was the fastest rate of change observed so far.
As far as the direction of the magnetic field goes, the data needs to be analyzed to determine if this occurred or not. These results should be available next month.
This is all crucial information as Voyager 1 attempts to
cross into interstellar space
. NASA expects this to occur, but it does not know when. When this does happen, Voyager 1 will be the first manmade spacecraft to exit the solar system and dive into interstellar space.
According to NASA scientists, the levels of lower-energy particles will drop to zero before Voyager 1 crosses into interstellar space.
"These are thrilling times for the Voyager team as we try to understand the quickening pace of changes as Voyager 1 approaches the edge of interstellar space," said Edward Stone. Voyager 1 project scientist from the California Institute of Technology. "We are certainly in a new region at the edge of the solar system where things are changing rapidly. But we are not yet able to say that Voyager 1 has entered interstellar space."
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8/8/2012 1:48:14 PM
Wait I'm confused. You do know that the Curiosity rover is also powered by an RTG? We launched that last November, so what politics are getting in the way of using this fuel source?
8/8/2012 7:09:55 PM
First, there is an actual shortage of the kind of plutonium an RTG can use. More could be produced, but...money and politics.
Second, if you remember the Cassini nonsense, see what happens when you tell everyone you want to launch something containing plutonium, no matter how well protected. Yes, Curiosity did slip by quietly, but again, fear-based politics.
8/9/2012 4:20:52 PM
Exactly. The last time I heard about us trying to create any new plutonium was under Bush, and maybe I'm mistaken but it got no where.
Second, doesn't anyone think its interesting that NASA only ramped up the PR machine on Curiosity in the last month? Don't know about everyone else, but it was obvious to me immediately both that it was done intentionally and the reason: the RTG. Launched it quietly so that the eco-terrorists wouldn't notice until it was practically too late, then ramped up the PR for the landing so NASA could show off its prowess to the taxpayer.
Finally, there's quite a few stories at this very site going back many years where econuts themselves have come on here and whined in the comments about OMG'S, WHAT IT BLOWS UP ON LAUNCH!? Then they proceed to ignore how robust RTG's are, how unlikely any substantial contamination is, etc. No, we're definitely holding ourselves back big time in space science with our nuclear aversion.
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