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article imageVoyager surfs Solar System's edge

By Layne Weiss     Jun 28, 2013 in Science
Nasa's Voyager 1 spacecraft launched more than 35 years ago and is now 11.5 billion miles from where it started. There is no telling exactly when it will leave the Solar System, but the moment is believed to be close.
The latest data from this week's Science Journal suggests the Voyager 1 is surfing right on the edge of our sun's domain.
In recent years, scientists have been waiting eagerly for the spacecraft to be the first artificial object to leave the Solar System and enter the wider reaches of the Milky Way, The New York Times reports. Scientists still fully expect for this to happen.
The particles streaming away from our star have reduced to a "trickle" at their present location, 18.5 billion km away from earth, BBC News reports.
Voyager 1 has still not reached interstellar space, but it has entered a region, which no one originally expected, The NY Times reports.
According to BBC News, this all points to an "imminent departure" of the Voyager 1. It would become the first man made object to cross in between the space and the stars.
"It's hard to imagine there's another layer between the one we're in and the outside," Dr Ed Stone said. "Topologically, it makes sense that this is the outermost layer. The only question is: how thick is it?"
This is almost certainly the last layer of the sun's empire, The NY Times reports. In technical terms, it's called the heliosphere. The journal of Science described in detail the changes encountered by the Voyager around three months after the first Star Wars movie was released.
Voyager instruments have been busy sampling the far flung environment allowing Dr. Stone and his colleagues to examine the shape and reach of the heliosphere, BBC News reports.
In 2004, the Voyager reached heliosheath, a turbulent region in which it bounced around in all directions.
It was expected this would be the final stage before reaching interstellar space.
Last year, Dr Stone and his team detected what appears to be a discrete boundary layer what they are referring to as "heliosheath depletion region."
It is like a magnetic highway where energetic particles on the inside can get out easily and the galactic cosmic ray particles on the outside can zoom in.
"It is where the sun's magnetic field has piled up, compressed up against itself. It has also doubled in strength. It's smoother than anything we've seen with Voyager," Dr Stone revealed.
Some might argue might argue the particle data is evident of the Voyager being outside the Solar System, Dr. Stone says the claim cannot be made quite yet. The Voyager must also first escape our star's magnetic influence.
Even when that switch does occur, there will likely not be an immediate definitive announcement from Nasa either, BBC News reports.
First, instrument scientists must sit and listen to the probe's chatter. This could take several months. No announcements can be made until experts are absolutely sure Voyager 1 has broken the heliopause.
More about Nasa voyager, Solar system, 185 billion km from earth, Milky way
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