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After 42 years in space, Voyager 2 breaks thru the heliosphere

A historic NASA probe sends back a treasure-trove of information from billions of miles away.

  • NASA's Voyager 2 probe sends back invaluable information about interstellar space.
  • The probe was launched in 1977.
  • 5 new studies detail the data gathered by its instruments.


Over 40 years after its launch, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft sent back invaluable information from interstellar space. It is only the second spacecraft in history to go beyond the heliosphere – a bubble created by winds streaming from our sun that protects us from interstellar radiation.

New studies released by researchers confirm that the Voyager 2 is now traveling through the so-called interstellar medium (ISM) – an area between stars. Despite this happening about 11 billion miles away from Earth, scientists have been able to determine the craft crossing into ISM from the change in the density of plasma, a gas composed of charged particles. Data reported by a plasma wave instrument aboard the Voyager showed a transition from hot, low-density plasma of the solar wind to colder, high-density plasma associated with interstellar space. This was also observed aboard Voyager 1, the first human-made spacecraft to cross over into the ISM in 2012.

Caltech physics professor Ed Stone, a project scientist for Voyager, highlighted the significance of what the probes uncovered:

"The Voyager probes are showing us how our Sun interacts with the stuff that fills most of the space between stars in the Milky Way galaxy," said Stone in a press release. "Without this new data from Voyager 2, we wouldn't know if what we were seeing with Voyager 1 was characteristic of the entire heliosphere or specific just to the location and time when it crossed."

NASA’s Voyager 2 Enters Interstellar Space

The five new studies that were published each provide details of the findings from one of Voyager 2's operating science instruments. These include a magnetic field sensor, two instruments that detect energetic particles and another two instruments that study plasma.

Among the noteworthy conclusions from the instruments is that some particles from the heliosphere are going through the somewhat porous boundary into interstellar space. Another finding shows that the magnetic field in the area just outside the heliopause parallels the magnetic field inside it.

The two probes were launched in 1977, flying by Jupiter and Saturn, where they diverged. Voyager 2 ended up changing its path at Saturn to fly by close to Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 1 is actually the faster probe and is at the moment about 13.6 billion miles away from our Sun. Voyager 2 is about 11.3 billion miles away.

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Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
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Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

A truck pulls out of a large Walmart regional distribution center on June 6, 2019 in Washington, Utah.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
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Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

A girl and her mother take an afternoon nap in bed.

Personal Growth
  • We spend 40 percent of our childhoods asleep, a time for cognitive growth and development.
  • A recent study found an association between irregular sleep patterns in childhood and either psychotic experiences or borderline personality disorder during teenage years.
  • The researchers hope their findings can help identify at-risk youth to improve early intervention.
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