NASA has recently confirmed that Voyager 2 has also crossed into interstellar space. This is not the first spacecraft to have registered this accomplishment, as Voyager 1 is also deep into outer space.
Voyager 2 consists of functioning instruments, that aim to give humans a peek into the matter that makes up the space between solar systems and galaxies. Here’s why the Voyager 2 holds importance to mankind, along with details of the probe’s current status.
Voyager 2 probe: Second manmade object in interstellar space
In April 2011, NASA had declared that Voyager 2 had reached the edge of the solar system, known as heliosheath. This is the region where the planetary forces of interaction cease to exist, but matter would still be bound by the effects of solar wind, that also contains low-frequency radio signals and magnetic disturbances.
In November this year, NASA observed a different set of feedback from Voyager 2, both in terms of radio frequencies, and cosmic rays encountered. From its analysis, the US space agency has confirmed that the probe has now crossed over the heliosheath, and is in the space between solar systems, or interstellar space.
At the time of writing, the probe has reached a distance of 11.16 billion miles (17.96 billion km) from the Earth, and 11.09 billion miles (17.84 billion km) from the Sun.
NASA Voyager 2 probe: Longest active space mission
The first probe from the Voyager series was launched on August 20, 1977, a few days before Voyager 1. The probe was initially intended to study the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, and also ended up giving interesting insights into the structure of the planets themselves, as well as their moons.
In September last year, the US space agency celebrated the 40th anniversary of both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, which have been declared as our ‘eyes’ in outer space. In the case of Voyager 2, each signal take an average of 16 hours and 40 minutes to be received from Voyager 2, as well as from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, that is monitoring both Voyager missions.
Voyager 2 probe: First probe to cross Solar System’s gas giants
The probe passed by each of the four gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, in its pursuit toward outer space. By entering the region in which these planets’ gravitational fields are in effect, this probe was able to conserve energy while also encountering the shortest and safest route toward interstellar space.
While Voyager 2 did cross Pluto’s orbit, the distance was comparatively larger than its distance to the other planets. This is the only spacecraft to have achieved such a flight path, as the Voyager 1 escaped from the plane of the solar system’s orbits after crossing the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
NASA Voyager 2: Golden Record on board to communicate with aliens
Voyager 2 is among two probes that have been considered as a medium to interact with alien species, should any cross their paths. Key among these is the Golden Record, that offers a glimpse into the origins of the Earth, and sound of nature and culture.
The Golden Record on Voyager 2 consists of a 90-minute section on classical music from the West and the East, as well as a collection of 115 images that describe the Earth’s origins, as well as the creation of the Voyager missions. It also contains an element of human interaction, through which greetings have been conveyed in over 55 different languages.
Voyager 2 probe: Active instruments on board
With this mission, NASA aims at capturing images of the edge of the solar system, as well as interstellar space. Particularly, Voyager 2 will look to record the structures of the heliosheath, as well as the extent of solar wind across distances.