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News: NASA’s Voyager 1 is continuing its journey beyond our Solar System, 45 years after it was launched. But now the veteran spacecraft is sending back strange data, puzzling its engineers. A glitch is said to be behind this.
• Launched in the 1970’s, and the probes sent by NASA were only meant to explore the outer planets – but they just kept on going.
• The mission objective of the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) is to extend the NASA exploration of the solar system beyond the neighborhood of the outer planets to the outer limits of the Sun’s sphere of influence, and possibly beyond.
• The Voyager spacecraft are the third and fourth human spacecraft to fly beyond all the planets in our solar system. Pioneers 10 and 11 preceded Voyager in outstripping the gravitational attraction of the Sun but on February 17, 1998, Voyager 1 passed Pioneer 10 to become the most distant human-made object in space.
What has it achieved?
• Voyager 2 is the only probe ever to study Neptune and Uranus during planetary flybys.
• It is second man-made object to leave our Solar System.
• Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have achieved the feat of visiting all four gas giant planets – Neptune, Saturn, Jupiter and Uranus.
• It has discovered around 16 moons, as well as phenomenon like Neptune’s transient Great Dark spot, the cracks in Europa’s ice shell, and ring features at every planet.
Terms to know from Prelims Perspective:
• Heliosphere - The heliosphere is a bubble around the sun created by the outward flow of the solar wind from the sun and the opposing inward flow of the interstellar wind. The heliosphere is the region influenced by the dynamic properties of the sun that are carried in the solar wind–such as magnetic fields, energetic particles and solar wind plasma. The heliopause marks the end of the heliosphere and the beginning of interstellar space.
• Interstellar Space - Scientists use the heliopause to mark where interstellar space begins, although depending on how you define our solar system it can stretch all the way to the Oort Cloud, which begins 1,000 times farther away from the sun than Earth’s orbit.