Voyager probes ride magnetic bubbles, leaving our solar system

Humankind’s most distant emissaries are flying through a turbulent sea of magnetism as they seek to break free of our Solar System.

NASA’s Voyager probes, which were launched in 1977, are now approaching the very edge of our Sun’s influence, more than 14 billion km from Earth; and they are still returning data.

That information has allowed scientists to build a better picture of what conditions are like in the zone where matter blown out from our star pushes up against interstellar space…

Magnetic field lines carried in the “wind” of material coming off our star are breaking and reconnecting. This process is sculpting the wind into discrete bubbles that are many tens of millions of kilometres wide.

Researchers say this assessment has implications for our understanding of cosmic rays – the storm of high-energy particles that are accelerated in Earth’s direction by exploded stars, black holes and other exotic locations in the galaxy…

Researchers confess to being surprised; they thought the outskirts of our solar neighbourhood would be more sedate – that the Sun’s field lines would simply turn around and reconnect with the Sun…

It is a demonstration once again of the extraordinary capabilities of the Voyagers, which continue to excite and intrigue more than three decades on from their launch.

Bravo. RTFA. Respect the scientists who built these adventurers, remember the support for research in the space beyond the world we inhabit, knowledge to be gained beyond the petty limits of politicians, pundits and priests.

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