Completing a journey of 35 years and travelling almost 19 billion kilometres from the Sun, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has become the first man-made object to venture into interstellar space, the US space agency has said.
An unexpected data shows Voyager 1 has been travelling for about a year through plasma, or ionised gas, present in the space between stars, NASA said at a news conference.
“Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind’s historic leap into interstellar space,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
Stone further said, “The Voyager team needed time to analyze those observations and make sense of them. Scientists do not know when Voyager will reach the undisturbed part of interstellar space where there is no influence from Sun”.
Voyager is in a transitional region immediately outside the solar bubble, where some effects from our Sun are still evident.
“We literally jumped out of our seats when we saw these oscillations in our data – they showed us the spacecraft was in an entirely new region, comparable to what was expected in interstellar space, and totally different than in the solar bubble,” said Don Gurnett who led the new analysis along with and the plasma wave science team at the University of Iowa.
In 2004, Voyager 1 first detected the increased pressure of interstellar space on the heliosphere.
Heliosphere is the bubble of charged particles surrounding the Sun that reaches far beyond the outer planets.
Scientists then initiated their search for proof of the spacecraft’s interstellar arrival, NASA said.
The finding was published in the journal Science.