The Voyager ‘Golden Record’
This Friday, NASA reported that they believe the Voyager 1 space probe has reached the edge of our solar system. I’m really not sure why I only just discovered this (thanks Facebook nerds) – surely the fact that a man-made object has for the first time gone beyond the boundaries of our solar system should be big news?? As a friend of mine put it – ‘does this make us an interstellar species?’ I think it does… Wow.
It’s big news to me. The Voyager 1 and 2 probes were launched in 1977 – meaning they’ve been travelling for about the same length of time that my parents have been married (awww). In that time, Voyager 1 has reached a distance of 18 billion kilometres from the Sun, with its twin Voyager 2 (relatively) close behind at 15 billion kilometres. You can watch those kilometres flick by at about 17 per second on the Voyager mission’s official site.
The sensors on Voyager 1 have been showing a marked increase in charged particles thought to come from beyond the solar system – a sign that the probe has reached the edge of our little corner of the universe. As NASA rather beautifully put it, ‘Voyager scientists looking at this rapid rise draw closer to an inevitable but historic conclusion – that humanity’s first emissary to interstellar space is on the edge of our solar system,’ – weighty words for a genuinely awe-inspiring occasion (take that, Queen’s Jubilee). (more…)