NASA has officially announced that the Voyager 1 space-craft is no longer in our own Solar System. The craft, launched back in 1977, is now more than 19 billion km from Earth. The landmark occasion, of Voyager leaving our home system, had been anticipated for some years.
Last year a scientific paper claimed the craft had left the Solar System but cautious NASA scientists denied this was the case wishing to wait for more data from Voyager before making any announcement. Because of the distance between Earth and the probe it takes roughly 17 hours for a radio signal from Voyager to reach us.
After all the data from Voyager has been examined scientists estimate the probe officially entered interstellar space on 25th August 2012. Although Voyager 1 is now travelling in interstellar space it won’t reach another star for thousands of years. In fact it will be roughly 40,000 years before the probe reaches another system long after its power supplies have run out.
Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, just days after sister craft Voyager 2, and their original missions was to study the outer planets; Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. After this task was completed in 1989 scientists set the probes on a path that would take it out of the solar system and they have kept going ever since until last year when Voyager 1 made the momentous crossing.
Voyager 2 is also on a path that will take it out of our Solar System though its unknown how far away from this occasion the probe is. As of November 2012 it was 100 AU (Astronomical Units) from Earth – Voyager 1 was 122 AU from Earth at that point.
Unsurprisingly the Voyager probes have featured in sci-fi films and shows most notably in the 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture – the first film of the franchise. Voyager has also made appearances in Space 1999 and Defiance.