Nothing excites us more than a breakthrough in technology or a new scientific discovery, and we’re surprised this particular news hasn’t been more talked about as of late: the Voyager 1 craft that took off back in 1977 has officially traveled 11.1 billion miles away from Earth (probably thousands more by now), reaching the near end to our solar system in 35 years time. Pretty impressive considering all the massive objects floating around out there (the Voyager 1 is 722 kilograms/1,592 pounds) that could easily demolish it.
The Voyager 1 was set off on August 20, 1977 (along with the Voyager 2 that followed on September 5; it is now 9.1 billion miles from the sun) to deliver key datapoints relating to its passage through space; the craft has specific functionalities that measure cosmic ray flux, galactic cosmic rays, the flux of energetic particles, and the direction of the magnetic field lines around the craft.
Ed Stone, a Voyager scientist and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, recalled the earlier days when the “space age” was a mere 20 years old. “Many of us on the team dreamed of reaching interstellar space, but we really had no way of knowing how long a journey it would be — or if these two vehicles that we invested so much time and energy in would operate long enough to reach it[,]” he said.
Scientists were able to detect the transition due to the calculated increase of cosmic rays that rose 5% in just one week–taking about 16 hours and 38 minutes to reach NASA’s Deep Space Network. A 11.1 billion mile journey out of the solar system is significant because leaving the heliosphere opens a whole new realm of cosmic possibilities, traveling through the interstellar medium that fills up the space between all the stars.