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A woo woo religion!

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A woo woo religion!

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Not quite, but we're just about to. This little machine was built 40 years ago with relatively primitive technology and it's been traveling steadily for 35+ years. It can't do much but by virtue of what and where it is it's an incredibly important accomplishment. A hell of a throw from a tribe of apes on the tiny wet planet.

For the very first time, a man-made object has reached the cosmic abyss beyond the farthest reaches of our solar system. As of today, Voyager 1 is the first spacecraft to begin the endless journey into deep space.

Launched way back on September 5th, 1977, Voyager 1 has been blasting along towards the edges of the heliosphere at 10.72 mile per second, faster than any other man-made object to date. On its way out there, it explored Jupiter in '79 and Saturn in '80. We've known Voyager 1 was going to peace out sooner or later, but now a study in published Geophysical Research Letters has made it official.

From the release:

Thirty-five years after its launch, Voyager 1 appears to have travelled beyond the influence of the Sun and exited the heliosphere, according to a new study appearing online today.

The heliosphere is a region of space dominated by the Sun and its wind of energetic particles, and which is thought to be enclosed, bubble-like, in the surrounding interstellar medium of gas and dust that pervades the Milky Way galaxy.

Voyager 1 isn't headed toward any particular star, but it'll be making a "close" (1.6 lightyear) flyby past Gliese 445 in just 40,000 years.

Don't expect to hear about that though; strategic shutdown of its sensors will start in 2020, and by 2030, there won't be any power left. But there will be a little—albeit lifeless—bit of humanity cruising endlessly among the stars. And that's awesome, in the most literal way. [American Geophysical Union via Time]

Update: Turns out NASA's not so keen on saying it "left" the solar system yet.

"It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space. In December 2012, the Voyager science team reported that Voyager 1 is within a new region called 'the magnetic highway' where energetic particles changed dramatically. A change in the direction of the magnetic field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change of direction has not yet been observed."

SOURCE

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