It is still unknown when exactly the 34-year-old Voyager 1 spacecraft will cross over into interstellar space, but that moment is definitely fast approaching.
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The data, which traveled some 17.8 billion kilometers (11 billion miles) on its 16-hour-38 minute journey to NASA’s Deep Space Network on Earth, reveals a marked increase in the intensity of charged particles from beyond our solar system, indicating that Voyager 1 is soon to become the first man-made object to leave our little slice of the universe.
“The latest data indicate that we are clearly in a new region where things are changing more quickly," says Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Ed Stone. "It is very exciting. We are approaching the solar system's frontier."
"From January 2009 to January 2012, there had been a gradual increase of about 25 percent in the amount of galactic cosmic rays Voyager was encountering," says Stone. "More recently, we have seen very rapid escalation in that part of the energy spectrum. Beginning on May 7, the cosmic ray hits have increased five percent in a week and nine percent in a month."