Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Voyager 1 Another Step Closer to Interstellar Space

After traveling through our solar system for 33 years the Voyager 1 spacecraft is now passing through the "heliosheath."

The heliosheath is a region surrounding our solar system where the pressure of the solar wind from our Sun is equal to that from interstellar space.  Voyager 1 is currently 10.6 billion miles from our Sun (on Earth we're only 93 million miles from the Sun) and is traveling at 38,000 mph (yeah, that's a little over 10 miles a second).  Light from the Sun takes ten hours to reach Voyager 1.  Launched in 1977, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are still returning useful scientific information to Earth.  The plutonium-powered radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) will supply enough electricity to operate the instruments and transmitters for another decade or so.  Both carry a copy of the famous golden record containing the sounds of Earth, encoded images, and pictograms, just in case either craft is encountered by others in the interstellar void.  Can't do anything but watch, but this stuff is pretty cool.

UPDATE: 20 June 2011, the news is always surprising at the edge of the solar system.

On Pink Microscopes

Token Skeptic Kylie Sturgess posted a very nice essay on women and science education.

I've asked her if she's posted the text anywhere I can link to it for you.  Until then you can download it from iTunes or as an mp3 here.