NASA's Voyager 2 space probe sends back its first discoveries from interstellar space

Mail Online | 8/25/2012 | Ian Randall For Mailonline
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NASA's Voyager 2 space probe has sent back its first discoveries from interstellar space, some 42 years after it originally blasted off from the Earth.

Its journey took it beyond the Sun's protective bubble — dubbed the 'heliosphere' — and out into the wider cosmos in the November of last year.

Days - Twin - Spacecraft - Voyager - Years

Despite launching 16 days before its twin spacecraft, Voyager 1, it took six years longer to reach the interstellar medium as it followed a slower trajectory.

The data gathered by both probes is providing scientists with 'valuable clues' about the structure of the solar system.

Researchers - US - Institutions - Voyager - Journey

Researchers from various US institutions confirmed that Voyager 2's journey had taken it into the 'space between the stars' by noting a 'definitive jump' in the density of plasma — charged particles and gas — found around the probe.

This change was detected by Voyager 2's instruments and is evidence of the probe making its way 'from the hot, lower-density plasma characteristic of the solar wind to the cool, higher-density plasma of interstellar space,' they said.

Increase - Plasma - Density - Jump - Voyager

The observed increase is similar to the plasma density jump experienced by Voyager 1 when it previously crossed into interstellar space, the researchers added.

Among many things, the astronomers are particularly looking to gain a better understanding of how the solar winds — the stream of charged particles coming out of the Sun — interact with the interstellar winds, which are formed from particles coming from other stars.

'We - Nature - Winds - California - Institute

'We are trying to understand the nature of the boundary where these two winds collide,' said California Institute of Technology physicist Edward Stone.

The astronomers believe that the probes' journeys — with their different mission goals and trajectories — are providing 'valuable clues' about the structure of the heliosphere, a vast, Sun-created bubble encompassing most of the Solar System.

Finding - Implies - Heliosphere

'[The finding] implies that the heliosphere is symmetric, at...
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