Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • Austerity battle overshadows French Socialist’s annual rally

    Read more

  • Besieged UN peacekeepers battle Islamists in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • Kerry calls for 'coalition of nations' to battle IS militants

    Read more

  • EU leaders meet in Brussels to seek a response to Russia

    Read more

  • Lesotho PM Thabane 'flees after 'military coup'

    Read more

  • Ukrainian plane with seven on board crashes in Algeria

    Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns Russia of more sanctions

    Read more

  • IMF backs Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

  • France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

    Read more

  • Chelsea’s Torres set for AC Milan switch

    Read more

  • First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal

    Read more

  • Obama has 'no strategy yet' against IS militants in Syria

    Read more

  • Netflix to woo French with ‘House of Cards’ set in Marseille

    Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

    Read more

Business

NASA's Voyager 1 leaves solar system

© AFP

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-09-12

Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft to ever leave the solar system, NASA announced on Thursday, travelling more than 11.5 billion miles from the sun into interstellar space.

Voyager 1 has crossed a new frontier, becoming the first spacecraft ever to leave the solar system, NASA said Thursday.

Thirty-six years after it was launched from Earth on a tour of the outer planets, the plutonium-powered spacecraft is more than 11 ½ billion miles from the sun, cruising through what scientists call interstellar space – the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, the U.S. space agency said.

Voyager 1 actually made its exit more than a year ago, according to NASA. But it’s not as if there’s a clear boundary line, and it was not until recently that NASA had the evidence to support what an outside research team claimed last month: that the spacecraft had finally plowed through the hot plasma bubble surrounding the planets and escaped the sun’s influence.

While some scientists said they remain unconvinced, NASA celebrated.

“It’s a milestone and the beginning of a new journey,” said mission chief scientist Ed Stone at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Voyager 1 will now study exotic particles and other phenomena in a never-before-explored part of the universe and radio the data back to Earth, where the Voyager team awaits the starship’s discoveries.

The interstellar ambassador also carries a gold-plated disc containing multicultural greetings, songs and photos, just in case it bumps into an intelligent species.

Voyager 1’s odyssey began in 1977 when the spacecraft and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched on a tour of the gas giant planets of the solar system. After beaming back dazzling postcard views of Jupiter’s giant red spot and Saturn’s shimmering rings, Voyager 2 moved on to Uranus and Neptune. Meanwhile, Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to power itself past Pluto.

Voyager 1, which is about the size of a subcompact car, carries instruments that study magnetic fields, cosmic rays and solar wind.

Last year, scientists monitoring Voyager 1 noticed strange happenings that suggested the spacecraft had broken through: Charged particles streaming from the sun suddenly vanished. At the same time, there was a spike in galactic cosmic rays bursting in from the outside.

Since there was no detectable change in the direction of the magnetic field lines, the team assumed the far-flung craft was still in the heliosphere, or the vast bubble of charged particles around the sun.

The Voyager team patiently waited for a change in magnetic field direction – thought to be the telltale sign of a cosmic border crossing. But in the meantime, a chance solar eruption caused the space around Voyager 1 to echo like a bell last spring and provided the scientists with the information they needed, convincing them the boundary had been crossed in August of last year.

“It took us 10 seconds to realize we were in interstellar space,” said Don Gurnett, a Voyager scientist at the University of Iowa who led the new research, published online in the journal Science.

The new observations are fascinating, but “it’s premature to judge,” said Lennard Fisk, a space science professor at the University of Michigan and former NASA associate administrator who was not part of the team. “Can we wait a little while longer? Maybe this picture will clear up the farther we go.”

What bothers Fisk is the absence of a change in magnetic field direction.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell was more blunt: “I’m actually not going to believe it for another year or two until it’s been solidly outside for a while.”

Voyager 2 trails behind at 9 ½ billion miles from the sun. It may take another three years before Voyager 2 joins its twin on the other side. Eventually, the Voyagers will run out of nuclear fuel and will have to power down their instruments, perhaps by 2025.

(AP)

Date created : 2013-09-12

  • SPACE

    NASA's robotic explorer blasts off successfully

    Read more

  • SPACE

    ISS astronauts make rare emergency spacewalk

    Read more

  • SPACE

    Buzz Aldrin calls for US colony on Mars

    Read more

COMMENT(S)