Spacecraft’s journey to interstellar space helps put the solar system in perspective
Nicolle Rager Fuller
It’s finally official: Voyager 1 has become the first human-made object to enter interstellar space, mission scientists report September 12 in Science. On August 25, 2012, the scientists say, Voyager 1 exited a giant invisible bubble called the heliosphere that is inflated by a torrent of subatomic particles spewing from the sun. Now the probe is surrounded almost exclusively by particles produced by other stars. But whether it’s correct to say that the probe has left the solar system depends on how you define the solar system. “From my perspective, Voyager is nowhere near the edge of the solar system,” says planetary scientist Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. The sun continues to exert gravitational dominance out to hundreds of times the distance of Voyager 1 from the sun, where trillions of icy pebbles, boulders and comets orbit.
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