Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Voyager (the very first program I worked on for NASA) may or may not now be in interstellar space. The magnetic fields remain aligned as always, yet the gamma ray count hitting the craft has greatly increased, something which was thought could only happen once beyond the heliopause. Scientists are baffled and arguing about whether this is interstellar space or not.

Amazing that a nearly 40 year old spacecraft could still be revealing things never even suspected before!
Ok, this is going to sound really sad so forgive me but I can't help humanizing inanimate objects and thinking they've got a personality of their own. I always wonder if Voyager is excited about its journey or feeling a bit cold and lonely by now?

Those who worked on the project should be justifiably proud of their achievements. With the technology available at the time, to have produced a system that has more than fulfilled its design criteria, to have survived in the harshness of space for 30 years or so and then to have at least another 15 years of power supply left to keep sending back data is seriously impressive.

Good luck little Voyager and safe journey :wave:
Don't worry Slyboogy I missed it too. Many times, obviously! That doesn't stop it being awesome :D

I heard about Voyager, last week I think. My old dear was an astronomer (so was my old man), so I was talking to her about it. Apparently there is some disagreement over whether it has left the solar system or not already, but that doesn't change the fact that it is in the middle of nowhere.

It's funny to think that something that mankind made has gone so far, and will keep going until it crashes into something or it is picked up by some other civilisation, perhaps in thousands or millions of years.
I think one thing we can be sure of is that if Voyager had been built in the last 5 or 10 years it wouldn't have been anywhere as robust as it is and they would be trying to do a "soft reboot" every 20 minutes to get the systems back up and running. Is it the Mars lander which has gone phut and is running on it's back up systems?

Incredible that this machine is still going, I just hope it doesn't come back as predicted in Star Trek:The Motion Picture and try and kill us all. :D

Question siffert_fan, do we know what is producing the gamma rays as they don't just happen by accident and is it the magnetic fields you mention that stop them destroying everything in our solar system? If so, why are they increasing, or is that what the scientists don't understand?
This spaceship is cool.

Eventually, the Voyagers will pass other stars:
  • Voyager 1, in 40,000 years, will float by within 1.6 light years (9.3 trillion miles) of a star known as AC+79 3888 in the constellation Camelopardalis.
  • Voyager 2, in 296,000 years, will sail within 4.3 light years (25 trillion miles) of Sirius, which today is the brightest star in Earth's sky.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are destined to wander through our Milky Way galaxy eternally — unless they crash into something we can't yet calculate.

I went to an astronomy lecture last friday by this guy about how stars form. He talked through this simulation of how stars form from molecular clouds. This sim starts with a molecular cloud with a mass 50 times that of our Sun. The cloud is initially 1.2 light-years (9.5 million million kilometres)


Gamma rays are produced by radioactive decay as well as titanic explosions (eg supernovas). The other thing Voyager has encountered is an enormous increase in Cosmic Rays, which come from such high-energy areas as black holes, quasars and other "hot" areas in the universe. The solar wind from the sun generally reduces the amount of cosmic rays entering our solar system as well. Earth's atmosphere shields us from gamma rays from extra-terrestrial sources.

What amuses me so much about Voyager is that it's computer, which was cutting-edge for the time, has less memory in it than those throw-away "credit-card" size calculators that banks sometimes give away during promotions!
I didn't think magnetic fields could influence gamma rays (scrabbling my mind back to my school boy physics lessons). It does make you wonder if space exploration should use simpler technology rather than trying to shoot Kray computers in to space. I suppose the information they would gather would significantly reduced. Just goes to show how clever the scientist and engineers in the 60's and 70's were to achieve what they did. :thumbsup:
One of the great shames is that people are so terrified of radioactive elements that RTGs (radioisotope thermoelectric generators) such as power the Voyagers cannot be used anymore. Those RTGs have allowed them to function FAR beyond the point that solar-powered craft could function.
Good luck little Voyager.

I listened to an interview with a scientist on the Radio this morning who thinks that by the time Voyager makes it to the star towards which it's heading, 40000 light years away, we'd have created the technology to zip out there and go and get him back.

I just hope the Aliens don't get there first, think that Richard Nixon spoke for us all, then build a super mega space ship centered around Voyager and send it back to us (star trek the motion picture anyone?)
I wouldn't worry about it chaps, in a few years they'll have found some 1970s batteries to give to the bloke who's going to cycle down to the bottom of the studio and fit them.
I believe Voyager 2 is also approaching the edge of the solar system. But am I right in thinking that although they are/will be beyond the solar system they are still within our Galaxy, and that the interstellar space that they are in is not the same as intergalactic space?
If that is the case, I hope one of them meets a wandering black hole before it's batteries ( the voyager, not the black holes batteries) run out. That would be spectacular information to beam back to us.
I don't think they're ever going to get that far before the batteries run out Titch.

The boffins reckon the batteries have another 10 years left in them. The little fella is doing 100000 miles per hour at the moment so if we say that this speed will remain constant then

(10 X 365 + 2 (for leap years in 2016 and 2020) X 24 X 100000 = A total distance away from it's current position of......

8764800000 miles

Which in galatic terms is sod all.

for comparison, light travels at 3X10 to the power of 8 metres per second or approximately 187500 miles a second and the closest star to earth is approximately 6 light years away or 3153600 x 187500 = 591300000000 miles, which is approximately 67 times further away than Voyager will be when its batteries run out and the closest black hole is further away than that.
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One thing I always found slightly baffling about the gold records onboard both Voyagers.

They'll probably never reach anyone but even if there were the tiniest microscopic chance that anyone else out there set about trying to decode the recordings, what hope in hell would they have of even trying to decode any of the multitudes of languages in it? Would they even understand the concept of having multiple languages? One alien language would already have been a pain in the butt for any being out there but hundreds??
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