A Relic of a once great Republic

Posted on December 14, 2010

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This article about Voyager 1 caught my attention and imagination.  Among the amazing bits of info is that Voyager 1 is now 17.3 billion Kilometers from Old Man Sol and is nearing the end of our Solar System and on into the Heliopause.  What an incredible bang for the buck we got out of this space probe when we launched it back in 1977?   What are we currently deploying to further our knowledge of the nether regions of the Universe?  Come on everyone, the silence is deafening here.  That’s right – the answer is nothing.   Would we even be able to deploy something like this in 2011?  What I mean is – would we be able to afford it?  Oh, but don’t feel so glum – after all, we are paying for a social services infrastructure for the human refuse of Central America and paying enormous sums in salaries, benefits and pensions for Government ‘Cubicle Monkeys’.   Without further adee do – here’s the actual report:

NASA’s long-running Voyager 1 spacecraft is barrelling its way toward the edge of the solar system.

Since 2004, the unmanned probe has been exploring a region of space where solar wind — a stream of charged particles spewing from the sun at 1.6 million km/h — slows abruptly and crashes into the thin gas between stars.

NASA said Monday that recent readings show the average outward speed of the solar wind has slowed to zero, meaning the spacecraft is getting ever closer to the solar system’s boundary, known as the heliopause.

“It’s telling us the heliopause is not too far ahead,” said project scientist Edward Stone of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Scientists estimate it will take another four years before Voyager 1 completely exits the solar system and enters interstellar space.

The latest milestone occurred in June when scientists noticed the solar wind speed matched the spacecraft’s. Just as wind velocity on Earth can vary, the team took measurements for several more months to make sure there were no changes.

“We knew this was going to happen. The question was when,” Stone said.

The Voyager results will be presented Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

Launched in 1977, the nuclear-powered Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 toured Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, then kept going in different directions. Voyager 1 veered north while Voyager 2 headed south.

Hurtling at 61,000 km/h, Voyager 1 is 17.3 billion kilometres from the sun. Voyager 2 , travelling slower at 56,300 km/h, is 14.1 billion kilometres from the sun.

When Voyager 1 finally leaves the solar system, scientists expect to see a telltale change in the wind. Interstellar wind is slower, colder and denser than solar wind.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/12/14/tech-voyageur-solar-system.html#ixzz188nAmpNf

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