Happy 4th of July to Voyager 1 & 2 from Audioholics
Lately I’ve been editorializing science based stuff I happen upon online while taking a break from the A/V stuff. Despite I am an avid Audioholic, I am also a geeky science guy as well. I suppose they kinda go hand in hand, but nonetheless after reading about the successes of our Voyager spacecrafts it kinda fueled my American pride that when we put our minds to a challenge, we can prevail.
From Jeremy HSU (Staff Writer of Space.com) “Voyager 2's journey toward interstellar space has revealed surprising insights into the energy and magnetic forces at the solar system's outer edge, and confirmed the solar system's squashed shape. Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue to send data to Earth more than thirty years after they first launched. During the 1990s, Voyager 1 became the farthest manmade object in space. “
“Each spacecraft has now crossed the edge of the solar system, known as termination shock, where the outbound solar wind collides with inbound energetic particles from interstellar space. The termination shock surrounds the solar system and encloses a bubble called the heliosphere.
"The solar wind is blowing outward trying to inflate this bubble, and the pressure from interstellar wind is coming in," said Edward Stone, physicist and Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. He and other researchers published a series of studies in the journal Nature this week that detail the Voyager findings.”
While Voyager 2 reached the southern edge of the solar system 7 billion miles (76 AU) from the sun, and Voyager 1 reached the northern edge 7.8 billion miles (84 AU) from the sun they helped confirm previous suspicions about the heliosphere bubble being squashed at its southern region.
The reason for that asymmetrical shape rests with an interstellar magnetic field that puts more pressure on the southern region of the solar system — something that may change over one hundred thousand years as that magnetic field experiences turbulence, Stone said.
So what does this all boil down to? Scientists had predicted that the solar wind would simultaneously slow down and heat up to a temperature near 1.8 million degrees F (1 million degrees Kelvin), but instead found that it reached just 180,000 degrees F (100,000 degrees Kelvin) at the solar system boundary. I guess this means it would take 20 nano seconds to deep fry some chicken compare to 2 nanoseconds that they originally thought. Oh well, intergalactic aliens have to wait a tad longer if they want it extra crispy.
But wait, the energy is still there, just in a different form. What they have found was the solar wind's missing energy ended up hitching a ride with interstellar intruders, Richardson said.
Neutral atoms that flowed in from outside the solar system became energized upon entering the heliosheath layer, and then ended up stealing 80 percent of the energy from the solar wind. Researchers have yet to puzzle out the significance of this. I am puzzled just trying to figure out what this is all about but hey its cool, I mean HOT.
An added mystery remains as to why the solar wind slows down early, as though anticipating running headlong into the termination shock. Researchers have begun looking into whether the solar wind somehow sheds energy ahead of time.
"Somehow the solar wind knows the shock is coming before it gets there, and theory says that shouldn't be," Richardson noted, adding that the solar wind speed drops from its supersonic speed of about 248 miles per second (400 km/s) to 186 miles per second (300 km/s) even before hitting the edge of the solar system. That speed falls more noticeably to about 93 miles per second (150 km/s) after the termination shock.
Huh? Did we detect smart wind that can apparently dodge space police speed traps?
As scientists are baffled by these findings, both Voyager 1 & 2 plow on and, according to Stone, should reach interstellar space in 5 to 7 years. It amazes me how NASA is capable of making 30 year old technology transmit through billions of miles of space while I have difficulty getting my RF remote controls to operate reliably in my own home. Here’s a special Salute to American ingenuity and I hope all appreciate this little story as we celebrate our nations independence.
At this rate, it would take the Voyager probes 70k years to get there!
I was thinking about that same thing a couple of months ago. Pretty amazing. Over 3000 generations of humans would begin and end on the journey. If the trip was represented by my drive to work, starting when my car began to move, my life would be over before my car left the garage.
From what I understand, NASA lost a lot of their brain power from the moon days due to age/retirement. I'd love to see private contractors compete and race to Mars but could you imagine if joe six pack builds his own rocket in his backyard and it blows up? Obviously we need good competitive bids from legit companies much like they did for the JSF.
This is true, but the main reason NASA is not at the level that they were in the 60s has to do with funding. To quote a line from "The Right Stuff," "no bucks, no Buck Rogers." NASA funding (adjusted for inflation) is nowhere near what it was in the 60s. Also, there was a major refocusing in NASA in the 90s (which I saw happening while I was working there). NASA became a "customer service" organization instead of a science and exploration organization. Much of this was driven by ex-NASA Administrator Dan Goldin's credo of "faster, cheaper, better." When you're doing this type of work, "faster+cheaper" never equals "better."
Space exploration is an awe-inspiring feat. I'd love a goal to get to Mars AND learn to harvest the resources of astroids. But frankly I find modern-day NASA gutless in terms of setting an inspiring goal and reaching it. Like sending a man to the Moon.
When spending resources, there is always the consideration of the payoff. Is the benefit worth the cost? There was a lot of money spent in the middle of last century in aerodynamics and space, mostly due to military and political reasons. The end results are indeed awe-inspiring, but we wouldn't have rushed to the moon if it weren't for the threat that the Soviets would beat us to it. The Russians do not generate a big motivation (at least publicly that I've noticed) to push ourselves to further exploration like we did in the 60's. Right now, a lot or our resources are tied up in other things.
I do suspect that planning is going on (that we will someday see the results of) to do something else on the frontier of space exploration - and that's because of the Chinese. They are in the game now in a big way, and I think that they want to prove to their citizens that they are a superpower and that they can compete and win at this. We will surely respond. Friendly competition, hopefully, with a better goal of friendly cooperation. However, we tend to compete more than cooperate, especially in a world with limited resources.
What would anyone think of contracting funds to private companies for space exploration?
The government does have contracts out to private companies for space exploration. I know that NASA has put out contracts for Moon and Mars missions. With the technology that exists today, it makes sense to open up the field, IMO.