Launched in 1977, The Voyager 1 spacecraft is 18 billion kilometres from Earth, near the farthest edge of our solar system – and it is still sending back data.
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This artist's concept released June 19, 2012 by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 at the edge of the solar system. AFP
NASA's Voyager 1 approaches outer limit of solar system
The Voyager 1 spacecraft is approaching the outer limit of the solar system but remains months or even years away from the furthest reach of the sun's magnetic pull, NASA said Thursday.
In the meantime, the US space agency's pioneering craft launched in 1977 is sending back a wealth of data on the final frontier of the solar bubble – or heliosphere – which scientists have dubbed the magnetic highway.
"This strange, last region before interstellar space is coming into focus, thanks to Voyager 1, humankind's most distant scout," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Voyager was about 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) away from the Sun – or 122 times the distances from the Earth to the Sun – when it reached the magnetic highway on August 25.
Also known as the depletion region, the magnetic highway allows charged particles to travel in and out of the heliosphere along a smooth magnetic field line instead of "bouncing round in all directions as if trapped on local roads."
The twin Voyager craft – Voyager 2 was actually launched first, on August 20, 1977, followed by Voyager 1 on September 5 – were designed primarily to study the biggest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn.
Taking advantage of a planetary alignment, they fulfilled that mission before pushing on to Uranus and Neptune, beaming back stunning images of the first two in 1979 and 1980, and the latter pair in 1986 and 1989.
But with those jobs complete and both craft still functioning perfectly, project managers decided to keep mining information as the devices fly further into the void.
The scientists controlling Voyager 1 – whose 1970s technology gives it just a 100,000th of the computer memory of an eight-gigabyte iPod Nano – decided to turn off its cameras after it passed Neptune in 1989 to preserve power.
It continues to send daily radio reports, which take about 17 hours to reach Earth.
Assuming the craft continues to function normally, they will have to start turning off other on-board instruments from 2020, and it is expected to run out of power completely in 2025. AFP
concept – an idea of something that exists; an idea for something new ความคิด, กรอบความคิด
solar system – a star and the planets that go round it, especially the Sun and the group of planets that includes the Earth ระบบสุริยะ
approach – to move closer to someone or something เข้าใกล้
limit – the largest or smallest amount, or the highest or lowest level, of something that is allowed ขอบเขต, เขต
magnetic – of an object that is able both to attract iron and steel objects and also push them away ซึ่งมีคุณสมบัติเป็นแม่เหล็ก
in the meantime – during the time between two events or between the present time and a future event เวลาในระหว่างนั้น
pioneering – introducing ideas and methods that have never been used before บุกเบิก
(space)craft – a vehicle that travels in space ยานอวกาศ
launch – to send something out, such as a rocket into the air or into space ปล่อย
wealth – a large amount of จำนวนมาก มหาศาล
data – facts or information used for making calculations or decisions ข้อมูล
frontier – a border between two countries, especially one with official points where people or vehicles cross; the outer edge of a country or area that is the furthest point where people have started to live and build towns ชายแดน, พรมแดน, เขตแดน
heliosphere – a region of space dominated by the Sun, a sort of bubble of charged particles in the space surrounding the Solar System เฮลิโอสเฟียรื
dubbed – called; given a name ถูกเรียก ตั้งฉายา
interstellar – between the stars in the sky ระหว่างดวงดาว
focus – the state of being able to be seen clearly โฟกัส,จุดรวมแสง
come into focus – to start to be seen or understood clearly
humankind – people in general มนุษย์,มนุษยชาติ
scout – a person, an aircraft, etc. sent ahead to get information about someting ทหารสอดแนม,ทหารพราน,แมวมอ
billion – the number 1,000,000,000 พันล้าน
depletion – reduction การทำให้ลดลง
charge – the amount or type of electrical force that something has. The protons in an atom have a positive charge, and the electrons have a negative charge การประจุไฟ
charged – carrying an electrical charge
particle – an extremely small piece of matter that is part of an atom, for example an electron, proton, or neutron อนุภาค
bounce – to move quickly away from a surface that an object has just hit กระเด้งจาก, เด้งจาก
primarily – mainly ส่วนใหญ่, อย่างสำคัญ, แรกเริ่ม, ส่วนมาก
planet – a large round object in space that moves around a star (such as the sun) and receives light from it ดาวเคราะห์
Jupiter – the largest planet of the solar system, fifth in order of distance from the sun ดาวพฤหัสบดี
Saturn – a large planet in the solar system that has rings around it and is 6th in order of distance from the sun ดาวเสาร์a
take advantage – to use the good things in a situation ใช้เป็นประโยชน์, เอาเปรียบ
alignment – arrangement in a straight line การจัดให้ถูกตำแหน่ง, การจัดเรียง
fulfill – to achieve something that you wanted to do, or to get something that you hoped for สำเร็จ
mission – a flight into space การเคลื่อนที่หรือการวิ่งสู่เป้าหมายของจรวด
Uranus – the planet in the solar system that is 7th in order of distance from the sun ดาวยูเรนัส
Neptune – the planet in the solar system that is 8th in order of distance from the sun ดาวเนปจูน, ดาวเกตุ
beam – to send out a beam of light, or an electrical or radio signal, etc ลำแสง คลื่น
stunning – very impressive or beautiful สวยตระการตา น่าตะลึง
image – a photograph, painting, or other work of art that represents a person or thing รูปภาพ
latter – used for referring to the second of two people, things, or groups that have just been mentioned อันหลัง,ครึ่งหลัง,ส่วนที่สอง
pair – two of something คู่
function – to work or operate in a normal way เป็นปกติ ใช้การได้ปกติ
mine information – to try to get as much information as you can from something
device – a machine or piece of equipment that does a particular job อุปกรณ์ เครื่องมือ เครื่องจักร
void – an extremely large empty space ความว่างเปล่า
preserve – to take care of a place or building in order to prevent it from being harmed or destroyed สงวน, อนุรักษ์
assume – to accept something to be true without question or proof ทึกทักเอา, คิดว่าเป็นจริง,
instrument – a tool or piece of equipment used in science, medicine, or technology อุปกรณ์ เครื่องตรวจวัด