NASA's Voyager 2 has entered interstellar space and Australia is listening

CSIROParkes radio telescope
  • Australia’s Parkes radio telescope in NSW is now tracking Voyager 2 as it enters interstellar space.
  • The spacecraft, after its twin Voyager 1, is only the second to reach the space between the stars.
  • The CSIRO is working with NASA.

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, is supporting NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft as it enters interstellar space.

The spacecraft, after its twin Voyager 1, is only the second to reach the space between the stars.

Voyager mission scientists have been closely monitoring the spacecraft, which is now about 18 billion kilometres from Earth, for signs that it has exited the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by our Sun.

The Parkes radio telescope, just outside the town of Parkes in the central-west region of New South Wales, joined NASA’s Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), part of NASA’s Deep Space Network, to receive unique and historic data from Voyager 2.

This provides a clearer picture of the environment through which Voyager 2 is travelling. The Parkes telescope will continue to receive downlink data into early 2019.

Because of Voyager 2’s location and distance from Earth, CDSCC and the Parkes telescope are the only facilities in the world that are capable of having contact with the spacecraft.

“So we’re proud to help NASA solve the scientific challenge of capturing this once in a lifetime opportunity as Voyager 2 ventures into interstellar space,” says CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall.

“Our team at Parkes has partnered with NASA on some of humanity’s most momentous steps in space, including the landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity and, almost fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

“Our long-standing relationship with NASA stretches back more than 50 years, creating breakthrough solutions from science, and fueled by our shared ambition to push the boundaries of exploration to benefit life back on Earth.”

Voyager 1 crossed into interstellar space in 2012, while Voyager 2 has been on a different trajectory through our solar system.

On its journey, Voyager 2 flew past Jupiter (in 1979), Saturn (1981), Uranus (1986) and Neptune (1989).

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.