Voyager 1 enters interstellar space - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Voyager 1 enters interstellar space

Source: NASA Source: NASA

In an announcement that NASA scientists have compared to the first orbit of the Earth and, even, the first steps on the moon, the space agency said Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft "ever to leave the solar system." Its departure of the solar system, they said Thursday, is the third step in space exploration.

"The confirmation that one of our spacecraft has moved into interstellar space is a remarkable achievement, and one that is quite difficult to comprehend," said Dr. Gary Zank, director of the Center for Space Physics and Aeronomic Research at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "We entered the space age only 55 years ago and in that relatively short period of time have entered into the ‘pristine' interstellar medium. This is an alien environment for humankind.

"Voyager 1 is in a region of the universe that was not created by our sun but rather by the neighboring stars and remnants of supernovas."

Zank said the Voyager 1 project has bridged generations of scientists around the world, and said this event was a cultural and historic change for society.

The compact car-sized craft was launched 36 years ago on a tour of the outer planets and in the last year crossed a new frontier as it began cruising through interstellar space – the part of the solar system between the stars.

Speaking of frontiers, actor William Shatner tweeted: "NASA announced that Voyager, after 36 years and 11 billion miles has reached interstellar space. So it begins..." [See the full tweet here.

Voyager 1 carries instruments that study magnetic fields, cosmic rays and solar wind. It will now study a never-before-explored part of the universe with eager scientists waiting on Earth to see the data.

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