NASA’s Voyager 2 probe could be on the edge of entering interstellar space, if radiation readings are anything to go by, the space agency announced Friday.
According to the space agency, Voyager 2 is experiencing the same increase in cosmic radiation that Voyager 1 did before it broke past the interstellar boundary several years ago.
The two probes were launched in 1977 to collect data and images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, but astronomers decided they could further be used to study our solar system’s boundaries, New Atlas noted.
In August 2012, Voyager 1 became the first man-made object to cross the border separating our solar system and interstellar space, known as heliopause.
At the time, scientists noted an increase in the rate of cosmic rays hitting the spacecraft weeks before Voyager 1 crossed over to deep space.
Since then, NASA has been monitoring Voyager 2 for a similar uptick in cosmic radiation and last week they confirmed an increase in measurements.
If their predictions are correct, Voyager 2 is about to become the second man-made object to enter interstellar space, but they could be wrong.
“We’re seeing a change in the environment around Voyager 2, there’s no doubt about that,” said Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone in a statement. “We’re going to learn a lot in the coming months, but we still don’t know when we’ll reach the heliopause. We’re not there yet — that’s one thing I can say with confidence.”
NASA noted that both Voyagers were equipped with enough electrical power and thruster fuel to last until 2020 at the very least.
By that time, scientists estimate that Voyager 1 will be about 13.8 billion miles from the Sun and Voyager 2 will be 11.4 billion miles away.
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