Voyager 1 enters new region in far reaches of solar system (photos)
by CNET News.com | December 3, 2012, 4:01pm PST | Image 1 of 12
Since its launch on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 has traveled more than 11 billion miles, photographing some of the most spectacular and iconic images of our solar system's planets and moons, and returning stunning pictures of our very own home planet.
Here, the Voyager 1 spacecraft, encapsulated in a Centaur Standard Shroud, is hoisted up the gantry to be mated with its Titan-Centaur launch vehicle at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Moving at a speed of 10.5 miles per second, the equivalent of more than 38,000 miles per hour, Voyager 1 is now the most distant man-made object from Earth. NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a new region at the farthest reaches of our solar system that scientists feel is the final area the spacecraft has to break through before reaching interstellar space.
Before entering this region, the charged particles inside the solar bubble bounced around in all directions, as iftrapped inside the heliosphere, but Voyager is not in an area scientists describe as "magnetic highway for charged particles".
This highway connects our sun's magnetic field lines to interstellar magnetic field lines, allowing the exchange of lower-energy charged particles that originate from inside our heliosphere -- or the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself -- to zoom out and allows higher-energy particles from outside to stream in.
Once the spacecraft crosses the magnetic bubble's scope, scientists predict the direction of these magnetic field lines will change completely, signaling Voyager has broken through to the other side, outside the Sun's environment -- something which may be a couple of months to a couple of years away.
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