NASA’s Voyager 1 probe is expected to take another 300 years to reach the farthest region of our solar system. Until then, it’s sailing through the void between the stars.

Concept art showing NASA’s Voyager spacecraft against a backdrop of stars.NASA/JPL-Caltech

  • Voyager 1 and 2 are exploring the mysterious region between the stars, called interstellar space.

  • NASA launched the twin probes in 1977 on a five-year mission across the solar system.

  • Voyager 1 is expected to take 40,000 years to reach another star, according to the space agency.

About 14.8 billion miles from Earth, Voyager 1 is traversing the darkness of the interstellar medium, the uncharted space between the stars. They are the furthest human-made objects from our planet.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched in 1977 within 16 days of each other with a five-year project duration to closely study Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their respective moons.

45 years into their mission, each of them has made history by bravely venturing beyond the boundary of our sun’s influence, known as the heliopause.

Both brave spacecraft continue to send data from beyond the solar system and their cosmic journeys are far from over.

solar system heliosphere heliopause interstellar shock termination spacep voyager 1 2 diagram nasa jpl caltech pia22835a_20181206_voyager_in_interstellar_space_annotated_1920x1080_72dpi final

A diagram showing both of NASA’s Voyager probes in interstellar space in November 2018.NASA/JPL-Caltech

In 300 years, Voyager 1 could see the Oort Cloud, and in 296,000 years, Voyager 2 could pass by Sirius

As part of an ongoing power management effort that has ramped up in recent years, engineers have shut down non-technical systems aboard Voyager spacecraft, such as scientific instrument heaters, hoping to keep them running until 2030.

After that, the probes will likely lose the ability to communicate with Earth.

However, even after NASA shuts down its instruments and ends the Voyager mission, the twin probes will continue to drift through interstellar space.

In about 300 years, NASA says Voyager 1 should enter the Oort cloud, a hypothetical spherical belt filled with billions of frozen comets. It should take another 30,000 years to get to the end.

An illustration of the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud in relation to our solar system.

An illustration of the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud in relation to our solar system.NASA

Spacecraft are going their separate ways as they head outward into deep space. Voyager 2 is located approximately 12.3 billion miles from Earth today.

It would take Voyager 1 about 40,000 years to reach AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation Camelopardalis, according to NASA.

The agency added that in about 296,000 years, Voyager 2 is expected to drift away from Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

“Voyagers are doomed — perhaps for eternity — to roam the Milky Way,” NASA said.

Hubble Space Telescope image of Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky.

Hubble Space Telescope image of Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky.NASA, ESA, H. Bond (STScI) and M. Barstow (University of Leicester)

“It’s really remarkable that both spacecraft are still operational”

The twin spacecraft were designed to study the outer solar system. After completing their primary mission, the Voyagers chugged on, making a grand tour of our solar system and capturing breathtaking cosmic vistas.

On February 14, 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft captured the “Pale Blue Dot” image from nearly 4 billion miles away. It’s an iconic image of Earth within a beam of diffused sunlight, and it’s the farthest view of Earth any spacecraft has captured.

The iconic

The iconic “Pale Blue Dot” image taken by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990.NASA/JPL-Caltech

Over the past decade, Voyager 1 has been exploring interstellar space, which is filled with gas, dust, and energetic charged particles. Voyager 2 reached interstellar space in 2018, six years after its twin.

Their observations of the interstellar gas they are streaming through have revolutionized astronomers’ understanding of this uncharted space beyond our cosmic backyard.

“It’s pretty remarkable that both spacecraft are still running and performing well — minor flaws, but performing extremely well and still sending this valuable data,” Suzanne Dodd, project manager for the Voyager mission at Jet Propulsion, previously told Insider. NASA Laboratory, adding, “They’re still talking to us.”

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