Study: NASA's Voyager 1 in New Territory
March 21, 2013 9:50 AM
But scientists don't believe it has truly entered interstellar space yet
Scientists believe that
NASA's Voyager 1
has entered an entirely new realm on the edge of the solar system.
A new study conducted by researchers at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces -- and led by astronomy Professor Bill Webber -- suggests that Voyager 1 exited the heliosphere on the edge of the solar system last year.
These findings are based on the fact that levels of anomalous cosmic rays (which are in the heliosphere) dropped to 1 percent from previous levels while levels of galactic cosmic rays (which are outside the solar system) increased to twice their previous levels during late August 2012. This was the highest these levels have ever been.
"Within just a few days, the heliospheric intensity of trapped radiation decreased, and the cosmic ray intensity went up as you would expect if it exited the heliosphere," said Webber. "It's outside the normal heliosphere, I would say that. We're in a new region. And everything we're measuring is different and exciting."
The study will be published in
Geophysical Research Letters
The Voyager 1 is a NASA space probe that was launched in 1977 to study the outer solar system.
Last August, t
he Voyager 1
the fastest rate of change
in two of three signs of changes expected to occur
while studying a bubble of charged particles (which surround the sun). 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.
In December 2012, Voyager 1 reached what scientists call
the magnetic highway
This highway consists of charged particles where the sun's magnetic field lines are connected to interstellar magnetic field lines.
NASA's Voyager 2 mission, which is also supposed
to study the outer solar system and eventually interstellar space,
turned 35 years old
last August. The Voyager 2 mission is actually older than Voyager 1 by about 16 days.
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