NASA probe on brink of solar system detects cosmic ray increase

Christopher Davidson
October 11, 2018

NASA announced on Friday that the spacecraft started detecting cosmic rays originating outside our solar system in deep space.

On the outer layers heliosphere (the place where the main component of the environment is the solar wind and the magnetic field of the Sun) it is from 2007. The heliosheath is the outermost later of the heliosphere, and is where Voyager 2 is traveling through to get it to interstellar space.

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Six years ago, the Voyager 1 spacecraft informed scientists that it had become the first man-made object to enter interstellar space.

Researchers noticed a similar spike in the cosmic rays when Voyager 1 was able to traverse the heliopause but Voyager 2 experiencing the same isn't the sole indicator that could help us detect if it is in the interstellar space or not because the space is ever-expanding and therefore, researchers have estimated that Voyager 2 must reach the interstellar space sometime before 2030.

Which is exactly what's been happening for more than a month: The built-in Cosmic Ray Subsystem measured a 5 percent increase since early August.

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NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched in 1977 and is about 11 billion miles from Earth right now. Voyager 2's increased measurements suggest that it's inching closer to the heliopause, and could soon enter the interstellar medium.

In May 2012, Voyager 1 experienced an increase in the rate of cosmic rays, must like what its sibling is now encountering.

However, team members working on NASA's Voyager 2 noted in a statement that this increase is not a definitive sign that the spacecraft will cross the heliopause. Solar activity refers to emissions from the sun, including solar flares and eruptions of material called coronal mass ejections. This, however, does not necessarily mean that Voyager 2 will cross the border now, because every 11 years of a solar cycle, our Solar System is expanding and contracting a little bit.

"We're going to learn a lot in the coming months, but we still don't know when we'll reach the heliopause. We're not there yet - that's one thing I can say with confidence".

The Voyager spacecraft were built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which continues to operate both.

The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, managed by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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