Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Voyager 1 and the Ineffable

The BBC reported recently that Voyager 1 is about to leave our solar system. The craft was first launched in 1977 and is now 14 billion km from the Sun. The graphic below is from the article. It gives an idea of trajectory, relative position and nature of our solar system.

Things in the this world are just wild!

The article mentions solar 'wind' that reaches speeds of "1.1-2.4 million km/h." Wow!!! Additionally, things in space are SO big! It is really hard to picture this craft, it is even past Pluto; a place where the sun looks like just another star.

Along with the sheer vastness of size, another incomprehensible value is the speed of light. Light travels through (the abnormal vacuum of) space at 299792458ms/s. That's 108 million km/h. Even at light speed, it would take about 130 hours, or about 5 and a half days. I realize that is might make either value less understandable by using them in relation to each other, but other values also become unhelpful. An example: Many people have travelled at 100km/hour, if that is the speed one went, to reach Voyager 1's distance it would take about 16,000 years!

On a related note, I highly recommend you read this (again?)

Solar wind: Stream of charged particles blown off the Sun and travelling at supersonic speeds
Termination shock: Area where particles from the Sun begin to slow and clash with matter from deep space
Heliosheath: A vast, turbulent expanse where the solar wind piles up as it presses outward against interstellar matter
Heliopause: The boundary between the solar wind and the interstellar wind, where the pressure of both are in balance
Bow shock: The shock wave caused by the edge our Solar System travelling through deep space


Blogger Cosd said...

Mm... I wonder how much more life the probes have in them, apparently they're expensive to run:

9:47 PM  

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