It should take NASA’s Voyager 1 probe another 300 years to reach the farthest reaches of our solar system. Until then, he sails through the interstellar void.

Artist’s concept showing NASA’s Voyager spacecraft against a background of stars.NASA/JPL-Caltech

  • Voyagers 1 and 2 explore the mysterious region between the stars called interstellar space.

  • NASA launched the twin probes in 1977 on a five-year mission to roam the solar system.

  • According to the space agency, it should take Voyager 1 40,000 years to reach another star.

14.8 billion miles from Earth, the Voyager 1 probe is cruising through the blackness of the interstellar medium – the unexplored space between the stars. It is the most distant man-made object from our planet.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched in 1977 within 16 days of each other with a design life of five years to study Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their moons up close.

Now 45 years into their mission, they each made history by venturing beyond the limits of our sun’s influence, known as the heliosphere.

Both intrepid spacecraft continue to send back data from beyond the solar system – and their cosmic journeys are far from over.

A diagram showing both of NASA's Voyager probes in interstellar space as of November 2018.

A diagram showing both of NASA’s Voyager probes in interstellar space as of November 2018.NASA/JPL-Caltech

In 300 years, Voyager 1 will be able to see the Oort Cloud, and in 296,000 years, Voyager 2 will be able to pass by Sirius

As part of an ongoing energy management effort that has intensified in recent years, engineers have been turning off non-technical systems aboard Voyager’s probes, such as the heaters of their science instruments, in hopes of keeping them going until 2030.

After that, the probes will likely lose their ability to communicate with Earth.

However, even after NASA shuts down its instruments and calls the Voyager mission over, the two probes will continue to drift through interstellar space.

NASA said that about 300 years from now, Voyager 1 should enter the Oort Cloud, a hypothetical globular band filled with billions of frozen comets. It must take another 30,000 years to reach its end.

Illustration of the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud in relation to our solar system.

Illustration of the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud in relation to our solar system.NASA

A spacecraft takes different paths as it heads into deep space. Voyager 2 is about 12.3 billion miles from Earth today.

It should take the Voyager 1 probe roughly 40,000 years to reach AC+79 3888, a star in the Camelopardalis constellation, according to NASA.

The agency added that within 296,000 years, Voyager 2 should drift by Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

“Voyagers is set to roam the Milky Way – perhaps forever -,” NASA said.

Hubble Space Telescope image of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

Hubble Space Telescope image of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.NASA, ESA, H Bond (STScI), M Barstow (University of Leicester)

“It’s really cool that both vehicles are still running.”

NASA designed the twin spacecraft to study the outer solar system. Having completed their primary mission, Voyagers kept moving forward, taking a grand tour of our solar system and capturing breathtaking cosmic views.

On February 14, 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft captured this “Pale Blue Dot” image from nearly 4 billion miles away. It’s an iconic image of Earth inside a scattered beam of sunlight, and it’s the farthest view of Earth captured by any spacecraft.


The iconic “Pale Blue Dot” image taken by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990.NASA/JPL-Caltech

For the past decade, Voyager 1 has been exploring interstellar space, which is filled with gas, dust, and charged energetic particles. Voyager 2 reached interstellar space in 2018, six years after its twin.

Their observations of the interstellar gas through which they navigate have revolutionized astronomers’ understanding of this unexplored space beyond our cosmic backyard.

“It’s really cool that both spacecraft are still up and running well — some glitches, but they’re working very well and still sending back this valuable data,” Susan Dodd, project manager on the Voyager mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, previously told Insider. “. Adding, “They’re still talking to us.”

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