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We Bring Tidings Of Comfort And Joy

Humans are about to go interstellar.

The Voyager 1 space probe, launched over thirty years ago on a survey of the outer planets of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, is about to cross the spatial demarcation between what is our solar system and what is the Big Vast of the space between suns.

Now at 10.8 billion miles away from the Earth, the probe has detected a change in the charged particles that emanate from the sun, the “solar wind” as it were. This wind has now changed direction; formerly at its back, the solar wind is now along side the tiny spacecraft, denoting it’s sheer distance from the sun.

What’s amazing is just how fast (and how slowly) the probe is moving — 17km a second. That’s warp speed relative to us, standing on the surface of the Earth. It’s down right glacial in terms of solar distances. More, the probe was designed for a short life-span, a few years at most. No one thought that this ship — and its sister, Voyager 2, launched around the same time but traveling on a different trajectory and at a slower speed — continue to function after all of this time, their tiny nuclear rea

ctors still popping out enough energy to keep these guys moving.

Voyager approaches the edge of the solar system

Space scientists have long noted that there is a termination shockwave stretching out from the sun. The charged particles are a heliosheath, the shockwave the border, and the cessation of these energies is the heliopause. When the probe crosses the heliopause, expected to occur sometime in the next two years, she’ll be home free, setting an uncharted course towards the next solar system.

Is this the future of Voyager, V'ger from ST:TMP?

As fascinating as all of this is, there is still some pause for concern. If a wormhole happens to exist on the edge of our solar system, the probe could drop through it, land on the other side of the galaxy, be rebuilt by an alien machine race, and return to the Earth in the 23rd Century as a kilometers-wide energy cloud, demanding to meet its creator and threatening to destroy our planet if its demands aren’t met.

We have to watch out for these things, right?

Source: Voyager near Solar System’s edge – Jonathan Amos, Science Correspondent – BBC News website – RichardDawkins.net.

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  1. Horta says
    December 24, 2010, 3:25 am

    NEET! To boldly go…

    Reply
  2. k1ng-dr4c0 says
    December 24, 2010, 6:24 am

    I’m sure NASA would have prepared for such an obvious problem.

    Reply
  3. Krominof says
    December 24, 2010, 12:09 pm

    Always a pessimist! What if the aliens just want to share ice cream recipes?

    Reply
    • December 29, 2010, 2:40 pm

      @Krominof: Pie? Pie? You really think the aliens are going to come here for… pie? Well, okay, maybe if it’s my grandmother’s apple pie, but otherwise, it’s about war!

      Reply
  4. mm2 says
    December 29, 2010, 12:36 pm

    All I know is if they bring back bald chicks again, I’m glad I’m into hairy guys. So much more cuddly when the energy cloud comes to doom us all.

    Reply

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