Wednesday, 18 September 2013

To sedately go.

Voyager 1 is a 722-kilogram (1,590 lb) space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System. Operating for 36 years and 13 days as of September 18, the spacecraft communicates with the Deep Space Network to receive routine commands and return data. At a distance of about 125 AU from the Sun as of August 2013, it is the farthest manmade object from Earth.

Each Voyager space probe carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc in the event that either spacecraft is ever found by intelligent life forms from other planetary systems. The discs carry photos of the Earth and its lifeforms, a range of scientific information, spoken greetings from people such as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the United States and a medley, "Sounds of Earth," that includes the sounds of whales, a baby crying, waves breaking on a shore, and a collection of music, including works by Mozart, Blind Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", Valya Balkanska and other Eastern and Western classics and ethnic performers.

While Voyager 1 is commonly spoken of as having left the Solar System simultaneously with having crossed the heliopause, it remains well within the sphere of the Sun's gravitational dominion. It is presently less than one seventh the distance to the aphelion of Sedna, and it will take about 30,000 years to pass through the Oort cloud, the source region of long-period comets.

Voyager 1 is not heading towards any particular star, but in about 40,000 years it will pass within 1.6 light years of the star Gliese 445, which is at present in the constellation Camelopardalis. That star is generally moving towards the Solar System at about 119 km/s (430,000 km/h; 270,000 mph).


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