Today a suite of new science papers were published outlining what scientists learned when Voyager 2 joined Voyager 1 in interstellar space last November.
The Sun’s heliosphere is like a ship sailing through interstellar space. Both the heliosphere and interstellar space are filled with plasma, a gas that has had some of its atoms stripped of their electrons. The plasma inside the heliosphere is hot and sparse, while the plasma in interstellar space is colder and denser. The space between stars also contains cosmic rays, or particles accelerated by exploding stars. Voyager 1 discovered that the heliosphere protects Earth and the other planets from more than 70% of that radiation.
The data also shows that Voyager 2, which exited the heliosphere somewhat perpendicular to its direction of travel, is still in the transitional zone between the heliosphere and interstellar space. Voyager 1 exited out the head of the heliosphere, so its transitional zone was compressed and shorter.
The real achievement of these results however is that they were obtainable at all. For both spacecraft to be functioning so well after forty years in space, and able to get their data back to Earth from distances more than 11 billion miles, is a true testament to the grand engineering that went into their design and construction.
They built well in the mid-twentieth century.
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