September 5, 1977. Voyager 1 launched from Cape Canaveral. Almost 44 years later, the unmanned probe is still floating around, now in interstellar space, 22.7 billion kilometers from our planet. Voyager 1 also continues to send information to Earth. The fuel is now running out gradually. Scientists hope Voyager 1 can extend it to the fiftieth anniversary of its mission in 2027.
What about Voyager 1, one of the oldest space probes and the farthest human-made object ever? Well, after nearly 44 years of service in space, the probe is still transmitting information to Earth, even though Voyager 1 is further and further away from us and the sun at 17 kilometers per second. The probe travels around 3.5 AU (astronomical units) each year. One AU is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun and is about 149.6 million km.
In 1979, Voyager 1 flew past Jupiter and took pictures of the planet for several months. In November 1980, the space probe studied Saturn. After that, Voyager 1 found no more planets on its way.
Even before the launch of Voyager 1, astrophysicist Bill Kurth (University of Iowa) was already working on it. According to him, in 1977, no one knew for sure where the heliosphere or the limit of our solar system was located. But in August 2012, Voyager 1 flew outside the solar system and reached interstellar space. Among other things, it turns out that the heliosphere is located at a distance of about 120 astronomical units, which is much farther than many scientists had thought.
According to John Richardson, an astrophysicist at MIT, Voyager 1 continues to feel the hills of the sun billions of miles from the heliosphere. “Out of the heliosphere, the sun can still have a major influence,” Richardson said. The space probe is also still swimming within the sun’s gravitational field. Scientists expect Voyager 1 to penetrate the Oort cloud in about 300 years, which should extend the veil of comets within a few light years from us. No evidence has ever been presented of the Oort cloud, nor is it likely that it was from Voyager 1. The probe is already living in overtime. By 2025, it is unlikely that the probe will be able to power any device. Scientists like Kurth hope that Voyager 1 will reach its fiftieth anniversary after its launch in 2027. “That would be a milestone that no Voyager 1 designer had ever anticipated,” said Kurth.
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