Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

New Signs Voyager Is Nearing Interstellar Space 168

Posted by samzenpus
from the great-beyond dept.
sighted writes "Yesterday, someone tweeting for the Voyager 2 spacecraft posted: 'Interesting. Compare my data 4 high-energy nucleons w V1's That increase is attracting attention!' Today, NASA says that scientists looking at this rapid rise draw closer to an inevitable but historic conclusion — that humanity's first emissary to interstellar space is on the edge of our solar system. Project scientist Ed Stone said, 'The latest data indicate that we are clearly in a new region where things are changing more quickly. It is very exciting. We are approaching the solar system's frontier.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Signs Voyager Is Nearing Interstellar Space

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2012 @12:36AM (#40331861)

    ... if we don't immediately find life I will consider the mission a failure, begin binge drinking and accept drinks from any random android.

  • "You are the Slashdot Unit. You will listen to me. " (And, this being Slashdot: "My oath of celibacy is on record.")
    • by Brett Buck (811747) on Friday June 15, 2012 @12:39AM (#40331879)

      Oh, I don't think you need an oath. It'll work itself out.

    • hello? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ankhank (756164) * on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:00AM (#40331971) Journal

      I am really hoping that once Voyager gets outside the local sun's bubble, it picks up a dial tone.

      After all, what makes more sense than modulating the background, and talking only to species smart enough to pick it up, by getting outside their local bubble?

      My guess is most species would have been a little slower to send a probe out that far, and grown up a bit more in the meantime.

      But maybe.

      • Re:hello? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mug funky (910186) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:19AM (#40332051)

        if that's the case, wouldn't we cease to pick V1 up when it gets there?

        • Re:hello? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Kookus (653170) on Friday June 15, 2012 @08:18AM (#40333689) Journal

          Only if we are communicating with V1 with a known mechanism that gets absorbed/reflected by the solar system's border. Since we detect electromagnetic radiation from other stars, we can safely say there's a high probability of us still being able to communicate with V1 after it leaves.

          Since we know we can receive electromagnetic radiation, and we are listening for it, then we haven't necessarily thought outside of the bubble enough to be listening to something else that would get reflected/absorbed by the border. In other words, we're not going to magically start receiving a different form of communication than what we already are detecting, because we just haven't gotten smart enough yet.

          I'd say we have a better chance of something picking up our little V1 on their monitors and come check us out!

      • by matunos (1587263)

        And then... the invasion...

      • Re:hello? (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:49AM (#40333091)

        I am really hoping that once Voyager gets outside the local sun's bubble, it picks up a dial tone.

        After all, what makes more sense than modulating the background, and talking only to species smart enough to pick it up, by getting outside their local bubble?

        My guess is most species would have been a little slower to send a probe out that far, and grown up a bit more in the meantime.

        But maybe.

        Great, we'll be the AOL newbies of the galactic net.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The crew of Voyager had better hang onto their command posts and chairs to avoid extra jostling - the shockwave as they pass through the solar system barrier will be quite intense, as we all know.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2012 @12:56AM (#40331953)

    A little part of me wants to see it hit a wall, just to keep us guessing.

    • by friesandgravy (1086677) on Friday June 15, 2012 @02:16AM (#40332309)

      TRUUMAAAAN!!

    • A little part of me wants to see it hit a wall, just to keep us guessing.

      There was a radio play for "Dimension X" in the 50s that had this as a plot. "No Contact" by Ernest Kinoy.

      Earth had sent out multiple manned ships to interstellar space to investigate and pass a weird barrier which bounces back radio signals; each ship before the story had dropped from communication once they crossed the barrier. The ship ("lead-lined") in the tale passes through the barrier without a problem, only to discover that a

    • It won't be a wall, it will hit into its mirror self.

  • by Spacejock (727523) on Friday June 15, 2012 @12:57AM (#40331955) Homepage
    Just waiting for it to go 'Clannggg' as it hits the painted wall. Shame about the lack of sound in space, but maybe George Lucas could make a movie about it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:00AM (#40331965)

    It will pass the boundary on December 21st, 2012. The aliens will see it, and they will contact us. Then, everything changes.

    • by wierd_w (1375923) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:10AM (#40332011)

      I really hope you mean that as a joke. I really, really do.

      Firstly, the mayan calander thing has been quashed so intensly it isn't even really worth reacting to.

      Secondly, for aliens to even see something as fucking tiny as the voyager spacecraft, they would have to already be here. Even then they might not find it. Compare: voyager spacecraft VS Sol, our sun. You can fit many millions of earths inside our sun. You can fit billions of voyager spaceprobes in a single earth. The sun is tiny compared to the heliosheath it creates against the interstellar medium. Aliens with a telescope would not be able to see the voyager spacecraft. You can't even see it from earth! You can only find it with reaaaaaly sensitive radio telescopes.

      No. Aliens won't be visiting earth any time soon unless they are already here. If they were already here, the probe leaving the heliosheath wouldn't mean a damned thing.

      No. This is news, because for the first time ever, we have an instrument heading into the interstellar medium, sending us actual data. Up until now, it has all been deduction and theory. Now we are getting data. That is worth celebrating.

      Leave the aliens alone.

    • It will pass the boundary on December 21st, 2012. The aliens will see it, and they will contact us. Then, everything changes.

      And what that change entails all depends on whether or not Zephram Cochrane pulls a sawed off shotgun on them.

    • Yes, suddenly we're flooded with alien offers for tentacle size enhancement, special offers on [untranslatable] lubricating solution, and offers from the centurans offering to transfer some money from their inheritance to our bank accounts if we will just give them our name, address, galactic identification number and wealth storage account routing ID.

    • by dsinc (319470)
      Not until April 5, 2063. Vulcans won't make First Contact with a pre-warp civilization!
  • by three27 (806894) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:05AM (#40331989)
    I listened to a Radiolab episode several weeks ago, it originally aired in February 2012. However it definitely brought me up to speed on what they've been seeing out there. It's well worth the listen. Only about 20 minutes long.

    "Is There an Edge to the Heavens?" [radiolab.org]

    • Oh god, I hate Radiolab and their psychadelic, annoying and inane take on broadcast radio. Give me The Science Show [abc.net.au] on Oz's ABC Radio any day over Radiolab.

      I just want to be able to concentrate on what's being said, so I can learn something, not be "entertained" or be treated like an ADHD sufferer in danger of losing interest if only one person is talking at a time or something.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:15AM (#40332029)

    It's just going to bounce off a glass wall with leds wired into it.

  • V GER (Score:2, Funny)

    by poly_pusher (1004145)
    Is it going by the name V GER yet?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It comes back as a conscious being with all the knowledge of the universe?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2012 @02:44AM (#40332415)

    Dr. Stone was our first-quarter Physics Profession at Caltech [caltech.edu] in the Fall of 1982, where I was at first an Astronomy Major the, when I realized what I liked about telescopes was making them rather than looking through them, I changed my major to Physics.

    Things didn't work out for me in the long run at Caltech, so in the end I graduated from UC Santa Cruz. I don't have my Doctorate yet but I did well in what graduate school I did attend.

    Tsutomu Shimomura, of Kevin Mitnick fame and I were close friends at Caltech. Tsutomu and I met at Frosh Camp, the Freshman Orientation carried out at a Summer Camp on Catalina Island, out in the Pacific. It was quite cool.

    Did you know that Tsutomu is a nuclear weapons designer, yet never obtained any manner of college degree, let alone a PhD? The chances are pretty good he never graduated high school.

    While I graduated high school, my grades were quite poor as I have totally blown off all forms of formal education I have ever had anything to do with.

    Caltech doesn't care whether you so much as graduated kindergarten you see, provided you demonstrably have the insight to do original research.

    Tsutomu was on the verge of flunking out of Tech as he could never be bothered to do his homework, when the nuclear weapons community got wind of his interest in Theoretical Physics, largely published in colloboration with 1965 Nobel Physics Laureate Richard Feynman. The result was that every weapons lab in the Free World started hurling job offers at him. Tsutomu figured designing Hydrogen Bombs would be quite cool, so he eventually accepted Los Alamos' offer. His first job there, which I believe was unclassified and so openly published, was designing a hardware cellular automaton that was specialized for the purpose of modeling supersonic air flow. One can use it for designing fighter planes or reentry vehicles.

    "It costs about the same as a Cray," Tsutomu explained one day, "But it does just that one calculation at a thousand times the speed of a Cray."

    MichaelCrawford [softwareproblem.net], who can't be bothered to recover his password.

    • So - who are you? All I've been able to find new and quick search is some khur5him stuff that isn't very flattering, a cnn interview from two years ago and apparent threats you may have made related to an entrepreneurial event in Oregon.

  • by dark grep (766587) on Friday June 15, 2012 @03:33AM (#40332581)

    I thought it had already returned from the Delta quadrant 10 years ago?

  • by subreality (157447) on Friday June 15, 2012 @03:42AM (#40332623)

    "Interesting. Compare my data 4 high-energy nucleons w V1's That increase is attracting attention!"

    I've tried four times and can't parse that string, let alone make sense of it. Can someone from the appropriate generation translate it for me, please?

    • by YttriumOxide (837412) <yttriumox@gma i l .com> on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:22AM (#40332989) Homepage Journal

      "Interesting. Compare my data 4 high-energy nucleons w V1's That increase is attracting attention!"

      I've tried four times and can't parse that string, let alone make sense of it. Can someone from the appropriate generation translate it for me, please?

      Translation:
      "Interesting. Compare my [Voyager 2's] data for high-energy nucleons with Voyager 1's [data for high-energy nucleons]. That increase [that is, the increase shown in Voyager 2's high-energy nucleon data over Voyager 1's high-energy nucleon data] is attracting attention!"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MindCrusher (1249502)
        Acutally it's the increase in the particles/sec measured by Voyager-1 in the last months compared to the lack of a similar increase in the same data for Voyager-2. V1 is further away form the Sun and the decrease in the sollar wind intensity probably translates in more GCR (galactic cosmic rays) reaching that region of space when compared to the position of V2.
    • by higuita (129722) on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:24AM (#40333005) Homepage

      i dont know much more than you, but from what read, its a measure of cosmic rays and it starting to increase fast... so it looks that there is less resistance for then to travel. That can be explained as a lower particles density around and so that Voyager is entering a bigger void (/dev/null even more empty if you prefer) :)
      The rapid increase indicates a "frontier" as opposite to a very smooth increase, that would indicate a slow fade and harder to detect solar system limits.

      Someone with more knowledge can correct be if i miss by a large margin :)

    • by dtmos (447842) *

      Interesting. Compare my data 4 high-energy nucleons w V1's That increase is attracting attention!

      translates to

      Interesting. Compare my data on high-energy nucleons, received from Voyager 2 [nasa.gov], with that received from Voyager 1 [nasa.gov]. That sudden increase in the rate of high-energy nucleons received by Voyager 1, compared to both the historical levels at Voyager 1 and the present level at Voyager 2, is attracting attention!

      which translates to

      Woo-Hoo! Graduation! At last!

    • by Inda (580031)
      no1 hs tm to type

      I don't understand it either. Even if it's been typed on a phone, predictive text solves the problem of crappy keyboards. Heck, I can even miss all the correct letters on my Android keyboard and the correct word is displayed nine times out of ten.

      K THX..... nope, I can't do it.
      • by HybridST (894157)
        Lrt's see hiw thr ipid tiucg fared... No predictive abilities at all... Imagine that!
  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Friday June 15, 2012 @04:39AM (#40332819) Homepage

    It takes nearly 17 hours for the data to get back from Voyager 1 to us. Now here on Earth we rarely run into significant delays in communications caused by the speed of light - geostationary satellites are one example, and moonbounce [wikipedia.org] is another. But even bouncing signals off of the moon only delays them by about two and a half seconds, and you need to transmit hundreds of watts into a very high gain aerial array to catch the tiny sniff of a signal that bounces back from the moon, 236000 miles away.

    Okay, car analogy. On a dark night out in the country, look at a distant piece of road and watch for a car. From a mile or two off, its 21W brake light bulb seems pretty tiny and faint. Voyager 1's microwave link puts out about 20W, too.

    Now I want you to imagine looking for that brake light when it is 11.3 thousand million miles away.

    • by martas (1439879) on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:11AM (#40332943)

      Okay, car analogy. On a dark night out in the country, look at a distant piece of road and watch for a car. From a mile or two off, its 21W brake light bulb seems pretty tiny and faint. Voyager 1's microwave link puts out about 20W, too.

      Now I want you to imagine looking for that brake light when it is 11.3 thousand million miles away.

      Fucking mindblowing... Thanks for the analogy. It's beyond amazing that it's even theoretically possible to detect something like that, let alone practically.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Fiztaru (990211)

        From NASA's Voyager mission site (link here: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/didyouknow.html [nasa.gov]):

        The sensitivity of our deep-space tracking antennas located around the world is truly amazing. The antennas must capture Voyager information from a signal so weak that the power striking the antenna is only 10 exponent -16 watts (1 part in 10 quadrillion). A modern-day electronic digital watch operates at a power level 20 billion times greater than this feeble level.

        One ten-quadrillionth of a watt.

        Yeah, "truly

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        It helps that the background is a LOT darker than any place you'll find a car. Spotting even minute amounts of energy against a dark background is something man has been perfecting for MANY years. Just marvel at the ability of a simple photomultiplier. It can detect single photons with a substantial efficiency (tens of percent). The key is to get rid of all noise, and there isn't much of that in deep space.

    • by Herve5 (879674) on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:29AM (#40333019)

      I remember when the Huygens probe landed on Titan (Huygens, from the Cassini/Huygens mission: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassini%E2%80%93Huygens [wikipedia.org] )

      I was part of the Huygens team, and I really experience a special moment as concerns time:
      - building the Probe had been quite a long period in my own life (years)
      - once launched, the travel from Earth to Saturn lasted *seven years* : enough for you to deeply change your business occupation, and mostly loose contact with your former team, customer team, science team
      - then what was happening at that very time was, due to Earth/Saturn distance, transmitting the probe entry and descent data would last *longer than the real descent itself* : in other words, you were still waiting to see whether the thing you'd spent years in the building didn't just burn upon atmosphere entry, while you *knew* everything over there was finished already.

      So believe me, this feeling of meeting back with friends lost for 10 years, to listen what your device may have sent some hours ago knowing that at present indeed all the adventure has been over for one hour... that was very special.

      Also, the explanations of this to the journalists in the ground station rooms by your average public relation guy was definitely funny to watch :-D

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      Now here on Earth we rarely run into significant delays in communications caused by the speed of light - geostationary satellites are one example, and moonbounce [wikipedia.org] is another.

      Don't forget microsecond trading [slashdot.org].

    • by doug141 (863552)

      Now here on Earth we rarely run into significant delays in communications caused by the speed of light

      FPS gamers run into them every day. FPS gaming is limited to geographic region due to speed of light delay.

    • Okay, car analogy. On a dark night out in the country, look at a distant piece of road and watch for a car. From a mile or two off, its 21W brake light bulb seems pretty tiny and faint. Voyager 1's microwave link puts out about 20W, too.

      Now I want you to imagine looking for that brake light when it is 11.3 thousand million miles away.

      I appreciate your comment very much, but this analogy is a little off, as the 21W brake light bulb emits on a fairly wide spectrum while the Voyager link is tuned to a specific frequency.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      While clearly the V1 transmitter is extremely low power, there is one very minor flaw in your analogy.

      I suspect that the power measurement for the V1 transmitter is OUTPUT power, at the desired frequency, and it is highly directional. The power measurement on the brake light bulb is INPUT power, and it is barely directional. Much of the power of that bulb is radiated as infrared, outside of human vision. If you output 20W of light in the visible range with the gain of the V1 antenna I wouldn't be surpris

  • Does this mean that they don't know exactly where Voyager is? Why do they need to deduce its position from the nucleons' energy?

  • by LordKronos (470910) on Friday June 15, 2012 @07:01AM (#40333347) Homepage

    When I read the summary, I was a bit confused by it. It almost makes it sound like it's the Voyager 2 that is being talked about. To make things even more confusing, I had thought the Voyager 1 had done this already many years ago. I guess I somehow didn't make the distinction between the termination shock and the helopause a decade ago. The illustration in the 3rd link shows that all much better. It's also interesting to see that the heliosphere extends MUCH farther i the opposite direction. I never really thought about that, but I guess it's because the solar system is moving to the left in that illustration.

    • by fermion (181285)
      I guess it was almost 10 years ago that we had data suggesting the location of the beginning of the end of the influence of the Sun. I am not sure of the real significance of the termination shock, other than a marker of where that the end of the solar system is about to be breached.

      The heliopause is going to be something else. The data is going to tell us the structure of this interface to intersteller space. Since the data seems to already confirm the slowing of the solar winds to subsonic speeds, we

    • Indeed. I thought the Pioneer probes were way ahead of the game and have already left, but a quick visit to wikipedia says that they haven't. Are the Voyagers going faster or something?

    • by guruevi (827432)

      Ugh, keep up on your space programme.

      V2 was launched first, V1 was then launched later, they were both launched at a time so they could take advantage of a gravity assist but (if I'm not mistaken) V1 was sent directly to outer space while V2 was sent to do a flyby and take some pictures of some of the nearby planets (but not Pluto, basically it was a decision of do we go see Pluto or Titan) which is why it couldn't be accelerated as much.

      They overtook the Pioneer probes as they were faster, they also found

      • Ugh, keep up on your space programme.

        V2 was launched first, V1 was then launched later

        When did I say otherwise?

  • Again? (Score:4, Funny)

    by residieu (577863) on Friday June 15, 2012 @08:15AM (#40333671)
    This has to at least be the third time we've hit some definition of "The edge of the solar system"
    • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

      Think about your statement for a second. Now imagine going through a tunnel.
      - you encounter the outer edge of the tunnel and can perceive the shift from outside to inside and the faint light of the other end far off
      - you then experience the tunnel's environment as you pass through, gradually getting nearer the exit
      - you then come to the exit, and can perceive the other side more clearly, yet indirectly from inside the tunnel
      - you exit the tunnel and are now fully on the other side and perceiving it directly

  • Seeing the probes and how far they've gone in the image, it always makes me want to play Homeworld again, just for the interstellar travel.
  • by Foxhoundz (2015516) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:43AM (#40334881)

    Assuming the Voyager and Pioneer probes don't get flung into a star, plummet into some super gas giant, or captured into orbit by any other celestial object, these probes may be our fist step in preserving our legacy into the future. Assuming Voyager is still intact with its present trajectory, it will reach the star AC+79 3888 in about 40,000 years [wikipedia.org].

    In 40,000 years, there's a good chance that humanity would have gone extinct for a plethora of reasons. It comforts me to know that we would not go the way of the dinosaurs, quietly into oblivion on a lonely corner of the Milky Way. Damn it, at least we tried.

  • can you imagine the consternation created if voyager hits the edge of our system, then bounced back?

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      And what if on it's way back the earth started to get cooler. We find out that it was voyager all along that was causing global warming.

(1) Never draw what you can copy. (2) Never copy what you can trace. (3) Never trace what you can cut out and paste down.

Working...