The Voyager 2 space probe has been launched by NASA into space over four decades ago, but only now it managed to get out of the Solar System. The many years of space exploration included the study of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter.
The big announcement of the space probe entering the interstellar medium (ISM) has been launched by researchers from the University of Iowa. The event has happened even since last year, on November 5. Thus, Voyager 2 becomes the second object created by humans to journey out of our sun’s influence, after Voyager 1’s solar exit from 2012.
Don Gurnett from Iowa, and a corresponding author on the study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy the following:
In a historical sense, the old idea that the solar wind will just be gradually whittled away as you go further into interstellar space is simply not true,
We show with Voyager 2—and previously with Voyager 1—that there’s a distinct boundary out there. It’s just astonishing how fluids, including plasmas, form boundaries.
Voyager 2 entered the ISM at 119.7 astronomical units (AU), or over 11 billion miles further from the sun. By comparison, the first Voyager space probe accessed the ISM at 122.6 AU. The two spacecraft were launched in the same year, 1977. They had different trajectories through space.
Therefore, the structure of the heliosphere is being unfolded. It’s created by the sun’s wind as it extends to the edges of the solar system. Data from the Iowa instrument on Voyager 2 also can provide additional info for the thickness of the heliosheath. This is the outer region of the heliosphere and the threshold where the solar wind gathers against the approaching wind in interstellar space.
Will Voyager 2 manage to reach other Solar Systems? Well, it’s very unlikely unless humanity finds a brand new technology to propel the space probe much faster. Luckily for us, the Universe is a very interesting place, even judging by our Solar System.