NASA probe close to the edge of interstellar space

Enlarge Image This artist's concept shows Voyager 1 moving into interstellar space.                  NASA  JPL-Caltech

Enlarge Image This artist's concept shows Voyager 1 moving into interstellar space. NASA JPL-Caltech

Over the past 11 years, the Voyager 2 space probe is traveling through the outermost layer of the heliosphere which is the massive bubble that encapsulates the Sun and the planets of our Solar System, dominated by solar magnetic fields. The probe's Low-Energy Charged Particle instrument has distinguished a comparative increment in higher-energy cosmic rays.

This illustration shows the positions of the Voyager 1 and Voyager probes with the heliosphere marked.

Back in 2012, Voyager 1 went through the same stages that Voyager 2 is detecting these months. In order to Voyager 2 to leave the solar system it must pass through a heliopause so it is not an easy job to predict that, based on information from scientists.

Considering that Voyager 2 was not released at the same time as its predecessor or the same path, scientists can not predict when it will pass through the heliopause. Throughout the Solar System, the wind from the Sun exerts an outward pressure.

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"Since late August, the Cosmic Ray Subsystem instrument on Voyager 2 has measured about a five percent increase in the rate of cosmic rays hitting the spacecraft compared to early August", NASA wrote in an announcement. With that being said it is impossible to know where the Voyager 2 is from the heliopause and when it will be passing through it, but at least the scientists will permanently keep an eye on the spacecraft to make sure everything is alright.

NASA's Voyager 2 probe, one of the fastest and farthest Earth-made objects ever launched is now currently nearing interstellar space, says the space agency.

However, scientists will learn about this change in cosmic rays only after the probe leaves the solar system. Voyager 2 is still in the heliosheath, or the outermost part of the heliosphere. The spacecraft is 11 billion miles away from Earth and about to reach the edge of the Solar System.

On one side is the heliosphere, the Solar System's bubble carved out by the solar wind. Three months after that, he came out in interstellar space. A good portion of these particles are blocked by the heliosphere, so the ground teams are expecting Voyager 2 to measure an increase in cosmic rays as it reaches and crosses the heliosphere. During the 11-year solar cycle, the Sun reaches both a maximum and a minimum level of activity. The only thing I can say with certainty: "we're not quite there yet".

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