After a brief 41-year stroll at a speed of over 57,000km/h relative to our sun, Voyager 2 has left our solar system and entered interstellar space.
Voyager 2 was launched August 20, 1977 — 16 days before its sibling Voyager 1 — and has been making its way on a tour throughout the solar system, scoping out Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and, of course, Uranus. After it was confirmed by NASA today, Voyager 2 officially became the second man-made object to ever leave the interstellar system, beaten out by the slightly faster Voyager 1.
While the boundary between our solar system and interstellar space might seem like it would have to be an exceptionally arbitrary one, scientists define it as the edge of the heliosphere — the space where the bubble of plasma created by our sun meets the plasma coming from the rest of the universe.
The plucky little Voyager 2 is ‘visible’ only from the southern hemisphere and is currently being tracked by Australia‘s own Parkes Radio Telescope (you might know it as the titular ‘dish’ from The Dish), in addition to Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex‘s Deep Space Station 43, a 70-metre antenna that is part of a worldwide network used for deep space tracking.
Glen Nagle of the CDSCC told the ABC that, although it’s mission is done, Voyager 2 has enough power to keep transmitting until at least 2025, with the possibility that it could keep going until the 2030s.
The recorder on Voyager 2 is broken, meaning that it cannot store any observations it makes, which in turn means that it has to be continuously tracked for its output to be captured.
Godspeed, tiny spacecraft, alone,18 billion kilometres from home.Image: Getty Images / NASA