Two of three key signs of changes expected to occur at the boundary of interstellar space have changed faster than at any other time in the last seven years, according to new data from NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft.
For the last seven years, Voyager 1 has been exploring the outer layer of the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself. In one day, on July 28, data from Voyager 1′s cosmic ray instrument showed the level of high-energy cosmic rays originating from outside our solar system jumped by five percent. During the last half of that same day, the level of lower-energy particles originating from inside our solar system dropped by half. However, in three days, the levels had recovered to near their previous levels.
A third key sign is the direction of the magnetic field, and scientists are eagerly analyzing the data to see whether that has, indeed, changed direction. Scientists expect that all three of these signs will have changed when Voyager 1 has crossed into interstellar space. A preliminary analysis of the latest magnetic field data is expected to be available in the next month.
“These are thrilling times for the Voyager team as we try to understand the quickening pace of changes as Voyager 1 approaches the edge of interstellar space,” said Edward Stone, the Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. “We are certainly in a new region at the edge of the solar system where things are changing rapidly. But we are not yet able to say that Voyager 1 has entered interstellar space.” Via Signs changing fast for Voyager at solar system edge.