NASAMany new outlets reported Wednesday that Voyager 1 had definitively left the solar system.
That’s not accurate.
The new is based on a study published Wednesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
If this was true, it would be major new because it would make Voyager 1 the first man-made object to exit our solar system.
But the truth is Voyager 1 may have just entered a new region of space, not yet known to scientists.
Voyager I and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched 30-five years ago (Voyager 2 isn’t moving as fast).
NASA scientists announced last December that Voyager 1 had entered a new region of space known as the “magnetic highway.”
The implication was that this zone was the last region of space before the spacecraft entered interstellar space.
How did they know this?
Well, our sun blows out a stream of charged particles, called solar wind, that form a bubble around our solar system known as the heliosphere.
Interstellar space also emits charged particles called cosmic rays, but these are stopped from entering our atmosphere by the Sun’s magnetic field.
Data from the spacecraft, measured last June, showed that the intensity of energetic particles from inside the heliosphere was slowing down, while the intensity from charged particles near the outer shell of the bubble were getting stronger. The particle changes indicated that Voyager 1 was leaving the solar system.
The latest news appears to be based data measured on August 25, 2012. According to a statement from the American Geophysical Union, cosmic rays in the outer heliosphere dramatically dropped while cosmic radiation from outside the solar system was twice as intense as anything that had been recording since Voyager 1’s launch.
“It’s outside the normal heliosphere, I would say that,” Bill Webber, professor emeritus of astronomy at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces said in a statement. “We’re in a new region. And everything we’re measuring is different and exciting.”
Even Webber notes, according to the release, that “scientists are continuing to debate whether Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space or entered a separate, undefined region beyond the solar system.”
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