According to a recent paper published in the British scientific journal “Nature,” NASA’s space probe Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977, has detected persistent plasma waves in interstellar space. Voyager 1, which is part of the Voyager program, has been operating for 43 years and is currently the most distant man-made object from Earth.
MIND-NUMBING DISTANCES KEEP US FROM VOYAGER 1
So, despite having been in operation for more than four decades, one of which was spent outside our Solar System, the space probe not only continues to collect vital data but is also the first to measure interstellar space.
And it is this data that has enabled a group of Cornell University scientists to discover a weak signal that details the density of interstellar plasma in what could be the first continuous measurement of such density in interstellar space.
According to Stella Koch Ocker, lead author of the study and the newest member of the Voyager team, “this detection provides us with a new way to measure the intensity of interstellar space and creates a new pathway for us to explore the framework of the very nearby interstellar medium.” We have some ideas about how far Voyager will have to travel to see more pure interstellar waters. But we’re not sure when we’ll get to that point.
A SOUND FROM DEEP SPACE IS RECOVERED BY VOYAGER 1.
The faint sound detected by Voyager 1 is actually background noise caused by interstellar gas vibrations known as persistent plasma waves, which are part of the interstellar medium (ISM), a vast but low-density material that fills the space between stars.
Voyager 1 was able to measure this medium by repurposing a Plasma Wave Subsystem (PWS) that can measure electron density and then record data on the magnetospheres of planets such as Jupiter and Saturn.
However, Voyager 1’s mission will not last indefinitely. 14 billion miles from Earth and drifting even further away, the probe will most likely only have enough electrical power and thruster fuel to power its science instruments until 2025, owing to its radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs).
The spacecraft is expected to arrive at the Oort cloud – a predicted collection of icy objects farther away than anything else in the solar system – in about 300 years and then pass through it in about 30.000 years.