Are we there yet? Are we there YET?!? Apparently the answer is finally a resounding YES! Voyager 1, the plucky little probe launched in September of 1977 has officially crossed the heliosheath and departed the solar system. It is now undeniably the first human creation to leave our celestial neighborhood.
Scientists had argued for quite a while as to whether V’ger, ahem, Voyager had actually left the block. The argument it seems, was based on the fact that the plasma wave sensor on Voyager was damaged back in 1980. And without a dedicated way to determine the density of plasma around the craft, it was difficult to judge the point where that plasma (ionized gas that is present in the space between stars) began to rise, telling us that the ship was indeed outta here like a home run from Babe Ruth.
The big reveal was confirmed by a serendipitous event, a huge coronal mass ejection that took place in March of 2012. When the plasma from the wave finally hit Voyager 13 months later (yes, 13 months!) it caused massive ionized gas vibrations around the probe. The plasma wave tool was able to make measurements, and it’s findings showed plasma levels 40 times higher than those normally found within our solar system (coronal ejection aside), proving finally that the probe indeed had crossed into interstellar space!
And whats more amazing is that our tiny metallic emissary recorded the events and transmitted them back to us. So for the first time in the history of life on Earth, we can hear the sounds of interstellar space!
This small messenger, has given us so much information over the years, including the famed Pale Blue Dot photograph. And finally, it has gifted us with what could be it’s last vital discovery before it treks off into the void.