Voyager 2 is a truly remarkable marble of engineering and astronomy, as it is the first spacecraft to ever leave the heliosphere, the protective zone consisting of particles and magnetic fields generated by our Sun. This happened back in November 5 2018.
A year after the spacecraft’s entry in Interstellar Space, scientists have published five papers in Nature Astronomy regarding their findings. These newly published papers reveal details about the incredible discoveries made by Voyager 2, and what scientists have observed.
Voyager 2’s operating instruments
The Voyager 2 probe is equipped with five different operating instruments, including a magnetic field sensor, two instruments to observe plasma and two instruments that detect energetic particles from different energy ranges.
Cumulatively, the instruments aid scientists in forming an opinion about what is beyond the heliosphere: interstellar space.
Discoveries and correlation with Voyager 1
Interstellar space and the heliosphere are both full of plasma. The plasma in our heliosphere is scattered around and hot, while the one present in interstellar space is condensed and colder.
Voyager 2 detected two great changes upon entry inside interstellar space last year: the number of heliospheric particles suddenly fell, while cosmic rays shot up and tremendously increased. This was the point when scientists realized that the probe had entered a different region in space.
The newly detected data adds on to what was previously discovered by Voyager 1 since it began its similar mission a very long time ago.
The success of Voyager 2 led to a few scientific conclusions:
- Plasma in interstellar space is denser and cooler than the one from our heliosphere.
- The heliosphere is leaking particles: One designated device detected that particles are trickling out of the heliosphere and entering interstellar space.
- The magnetic field just past the heliopause is parallel with the one inside the heliosphere, which is extremely important for future research.