15 billion km on the clock

The Voyager 1 spacecraft set off from the Earth in 1977 and has clocked up quite a few miles since. On 16th August it is due to reach a whopping 100 AU - 14,959,787,069 km or 9,295,573,000 miles - from the Sun. Although 15 billion kilometres is peanuts by the standards of our local stars, that is well beyond all the planets in our Solar System and is the furthest that any artificial object from the Earth has ever been.

Voyager 1 is now heading away from the Sun at a speedy 17 km/s (38,250 mph) through the heliosheath and should pass beyond the heliopause - the point where the wind from the Sun is balanced by the wind from other stars which demarks interstellar space - within the next 10 years. The flight controllers expect that Voyager 1 (and Voyager 2) will still keep returning data up until 2020, so hopefully our first interstellar travellers will then be able to send back some interesting information about the heliopause.

For more information check out the Voyager website and listen to a nice JPL podcast (13.3 MB).

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 31st Jul 2006 (20:01 CEST) | Permalink
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