Voyager 1, everyone’s favorite space probe, has reached or will soon reach interstellar space. Voyager 1 is one of the two original Voyager probes launched in 1977 and she has a glorious stellar track record. She flew past Jupiter and Saturn in 1979 and 1980, respectively, and has continued to make observations from deep stellar space ever since, outliving her original mission timeline by just over 30 years, which makes Opportunity’s endurance look like nothing. (You know, that Mars rover that just won’t die)
Ever since February 17th, 1998, Voyager 1 has been the farthest man-made object from Earth, taking the record from Pioneer 10, who nobody liked anyway. More recently, Voyager 1 has set new records as the first man-made object to leave the influence of the solar wind and now, possibly, the first man-made object to reach interstellar space. Since December of 2010, Voyager 1 has failed to detect any movement of the solar wind in it’s current position. This is hugely significant, because interstellar space is defined as the region outside of the heliosphere of any star, and the apparent ceasing of movement in the solar wind means that Voyager 1 is now in the region where the heliosphere ends. Now, it’s a rather broad region, spanning several billion miles, so we won’t know exactly when we have truly left the solar system for the first time, but it’s nonetheless exciting.
Now, most of you are probably asking, why should I care about this old space thingy from a decade where these people were considered cool?
Well, seeing that Voyager 1 is very possibly the first human object that will ever be detected and found by aliens, it might be kind of important to pay attention to what it happens to be doing. Maybe aliens have been unable to contact us because their method of communication doesn’t work too well when mixed with solar wind. Maybe they’ll pick up Voyager 1, and use it to talk to us, launching humanity into a bright new age of interstellar exploration and expansion. Maybe after Voyager 1 enters interstellar space, humans will be considered advanced enough to become part of the galactic government.
Or maybe I should lay off watching SG-1 re-runs for a while.