Cosmic Rays Levels Increase as NASA’s Voyager 2 Comes Close to Interstellar Space

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While on its journey with the purpose of reaching interstellar space, the Voyager 2 probe from NASA just detected an increase in cosmic rays which has its source outside our solar system. This spacecraft was launched back in 1977 and it is now at about 11 billion miles (or 17.7 billion kilometers) from our planet. To give you some perspective, Voyager 2 finds itself at more than 118 times the distance from Earth to the Sun.

It has been travelled through the furthest layer of the heliosphere since 2007. The heliosphere is a vast bubble around the Sun and the planets which are dominated by magnetic fields and solar material. Known as the heliopause, the outermost layer of the heliosphere has been the target for the Voyager scientists. Once it exits that spot, it will become just the second man-made object, after the first Voyager to enter interstellar space.

The Cosmic Ray Subsystem instrument found on this spacecraft measured since late August a 5 percent increase in the rate of cosmic rays hitting Voyager 2 compared to what happened during the beginning of August. Another instrument from the probe, the Low-Energy Charged Particle device managed to measure a similar raise in the cosmic rays with higher energy.

These cosmic rays we are talking about are particles which start to move very fast as soon as they originate outside our solar system. Some of them are blocked by the heliosphere and that’s exactly why the mission’s planners hope the Voyager will start picking up higher levels of cosmic rays as it will leave the heliosphere.

May 2012 had the first Voyager to experience just what the second Voyager goes through right now. This was approximately three months before Voyager 1 left the heliosphere, like a veritable big brother in front of his sibling.


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