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Voyager Scientists Disagree On Whether Craft Has Reached Interstellar Space

Image courtesy of NASA / Wikimedia Commons | Article Link | Brid-Aine Parnell

While some scientists on the Voyager 1 mission team are fairly certain that the spacecraft has left the sphere of our Sun’s influence and reached interstellar space, others aren’t so certain.

Despite the announcement in 2012 that Voyager had left the heliosphere and was now travelling in the space between the stars – and subsequent observations backing that up – there’s still some uncertainty about where the long-running satellite is.

Now two of the team’s researchers reckon they’ve come up with a way to tell for certain if Voyager 1 has crossed the line, though sadly, it’ll take two years to complete it.

George Gloeckler, professor in atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan, and his colleague in the department Len Fisk have outlined a long term test in a study for Geophysical Research Letters.

The scientists believe that Voyager 1 is currently barrelling through the sprawling surface within the heliosphere where the polarity of the Sun’s magnetic field can change from plus to minus. If they’re right, the spacecraft will detect a reversal in the magnetic field, proving that it’s still in the heliosphere. But if there’s no reversal, it proves that Voyager is already in interstellar space now.