In recent newspaper articles and stories on the Beeb, there was strong speculation that the Voyager 1 spacecraft had finally left the solar system*. The manmade craft was now entering interstellar space and into depths that have never seen a manmade object before!
I think I was literally giddy at the thought! Entering deep space! Yes! Wow…
This decade has brought some heady excitement because of revelations from the world of Science:
– Much attention has been hogged by Higg’s boson and the LHC which has strengthened the Standard model of Physics and may have us standing on the cusp of supersymmetry (see also http://arxiv.org/abs/1302.1863)!
– The Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012 and since then has been sending us astonishing data about Mars- the red planet may have harboured life in the past!
– A study involving over 1000 scientists in 160 research groups has revealed the genetic causes of prostate, breast and ovarian cancer.
All of these discoveries and others not listed here are exhilarating stuff. Yet, it’s the journey into space, far away from our home planet that somehow, is the most romantic to me.
Launched in 1977 Voyager 1’s mission was to study the planets Jupiter and Saturn, which ended in 1980. In 1990 it gave us a portrait of the solar system and the famous ‘pale blue dot’ picture of the earth. Its given us proof of volcanic activity on the Jovian moon, Io and insights into the complex rings of Saturn.
However the probe that is now 35 years old, has had its mission extended and now it is sending us information about the heliosheath, the outermost region of the heliosphere. In time it will leave the region where the influence of the sun is felt and enter interstellar space. Imagine that! A point in space (and beyond) from which one can turn back and see the entire solar system! A point which the mighty sun that so dominates our lives, cannot influence…
It is expected that Voyager 1 will eventually run out of power by 2025 and as long as it is still functional, will carry on sending us signal from a very distant place.
As long as Voyager 1 continues its journey in some way it carries all of us who are earthbound into space with it. I hope one day we have the ability to emulate part of that spectacular journey ourselves!
* There has been debate previously and even now, on whether it has entered interstellar space or a previously unknown region of the heliosphere.