Voyager 1 Escaping Our Solar System

On the 35th anniversary of its launch, the Voyager 1 spacecraft is close to becoming the first man-made object to escape our solar system. The spacecraft—run by a 1977 computer 100,000 times less powerful than an iPod Nano—is currently 11.3 billion miles away. In 2004, Voyager 1 entered the turbulent boundary zone beyond Pluto, where solar winds encounter plasma pushing back from interstellar space. Now, researchers say, the spacecraft has reached a surprising area of calm that could mean it’s at the solar system’s outermost edge, where solar winds are expected to finally peter out. “We’re anxious to get outside and find what’s out there,” Ed Stone, Voyager’s chief scientist, tells the Associated Press. Earlier in its travels, Voyager 1—and its sister spacecraft, Voyager 2—provided the first close-up views of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Researchers predict that Voyager—which carries an audio-visual disc inscribed with greetings from Earth, photos of people and animals, and some Mozart— will exit the solar system within a year. It’s expected to continue sending information back to Earth for a decade before its batteries run out.