The spacecraft was launched in 1977 on a mission to explore the outer planets of our solar system and to possibly journey into the unknown depths of outer space.
"This is the first time that humanity has been able to step outside of the cradle of the solar system to explore the larger galaxy,"
The precise position of Voyager has been fiercely debated in the past year, because scientists have not known exactly what it would look like when the spacecraft crossed the boundary of the solar system – and the tool on board that was meant to detect the change broke long ago.
However, U.S. space agency scientists now agree that Voyager is officially outside the protective bubble known as the heliosphere that extends at least 13 billion kilometers beyond all the planets in our solar system, and has entered a cold, dark region known as interstellar space.
The scientists' findings – which describe the conditions that show Voyager actually left the solar system in
"Voyager has boldly gone where no probe has gone before, marking one of the most significant technological achievements in the annals of the history of science,"
The twin spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were launched in 1977 on a primary mission to explore Jupiter and
They discovered new details about the nature of
Voyager 2 traveled on to Uranus and Neptune, before the duo's mission was extended to explore the outer limits of the Sun's influence.
Voyager 1 – with Voyager 2 a few years behind in its travels to the edge of the solar system – sent back data to scientists on Earth on
Scientists expected that the direction of the magnetic field in space would reverse at the barrier known as the heliopause.
The Voyager 1 magnetometer did not show this change, leading scientists to be extra cautious about declaring whether or not the spacecraft had left the solar system.
However, an analysis of data from Voyager's plasma wave science instrument
Astrophysicists have projected that the density of electrons in interstellar space would be between 0.05 and 0.22 per cubic centimeter, placing Voyager squarely in that range.
"Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is humankind's historic leap into interstellar space," said
"The Voyager team needed time to analyze those observations and make sense of them. But we can now answer the question we've all been asking: 'Are we there yet?' Yes, we are."
While the Voyager team has reached a consensus, not all are convinced."I don't think it's a certainty Voyager is outside now," space physicist
The spacecraft is expected to keep cruising for now, though the radioisotope thermo-electric generators that power it are beginning to run down.
Voyager's instruments will have to shut down permanently in 2025, Science reported.
"Even though it took 36 years, it's just an amazing thing to me," said co-author
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