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The problem of NASA's Voyager 1 space probe has been solved – and it remains a mystery

The problem of NASA's Voyager 1 space probe has been solved – and it remains a mystery

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An artist's rendering of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft traveling through interstellar space, or interstellar space. © JPL-Caltech/NASA/DPA

The Voyager 1 space probe sends data back to Earth. The area you are in could be responsible for its previous communication problem.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After about six months of communication problems, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft is once again sending scientific data from space to Earth. The problem has been solved, but it remains a mystery because the probe is too far from Earth to examine it in more detail. The problem may be related to the region where the NASA spacecraft is located.

Since 2012, Voyager 1 has been flying through interstellar space, a region of space where the Sun no longer has any influence. But in 2020, the spacecraft's magnetometer recorded a sudden jump in the intensity of magnetic fields, and the plasma detector simultaneously measured an increase in plasma density. In similar observations before, measurements returned to normal after a few months, but not in 2020.

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has been measuring strange values ​​in interstellar space since 2020

The researchers believe that short-term measurement fluctuations could be related to streams of plasma that streamed outward from the Sun and hit the heliosphere boundary. According to theory, this could have created waves that compressed the interstellar plasma and briefly enhanced magnetic fields. Adam Szabo, principal investigator for the magnetometer aboard Voyager 1, suspects To the news portal Science.orgthat the 2020 spacecraft entered a small cloud of ancient interstellar plasma that contains the star's strongest magnetic field.

The heliosphere, heliosphere, and interstellar space

Heliosphere: The sun's field of influence in space. Here the solar wind and the Sun's magnetic fields are effective and displace the interstellar medium.

Heliopoise: The heliosphere is the outer limit of the heliosphere. Behind it begins interstellar space, where the Sun no longer has any influence on the interstellar medium.

Interstellar space: Interstellar space is the region in interstellar space, no star has any influence there, and the space is filled with the interstellar medium. These include gas and dust as well as cosmic and electromagnetic radiation.

Other scientists hypothesize that the region is a pressure wave of solar origin, and there is also a theory that Voyager 1 has not yet completely left the heliosphere. Now researchers are curious to know if Voyager 1 is still recording high values ​​after a six-month communications blackout. That would then indicate that NASA's spacecraft is still flying through the cloud and “make it a really huge area,” Szabo said.

Voyager 1 is at the mercy of galactic cosmic radiation

Outside the protective heliosphere, Voyager 1 cannot defend against galactic cosmic radiation (very fast charged particles). NASA suspects that the collision of such a particle may have caused a problem with the spacecraft's communications in November 2023. Voyager 1 began sending strange code to Earth.

Whatever scientific data Voyager 1 will send back to Earth after repairs will be of great value. After all, with the exception of the Voyager probes, no spacecraft transmits data from interstellar space. It will be decades before another mission is launched in this region of space. That's why participants are so relieved that Voyager 1 is operational again – after all, the space probe only has a few years left before it runs out of power.

NASA's probe uses the heat of decaying plutonium as a power source, and this will only operate for about six years. To save energy, six of the 10 tools have already been turned off, and more could follow. (unpaid bill)