This morning, the American Geophysical Union apparently sent out a press release that Voyager 1 had “officially” left the solar system, and of course the news outlets were abuzz…but a short time later they backed off that statement, and issued a correction that simply said, “Voyager 1 has entered a new region of space, sudden changes in cosmic rays indicate”.
Apparently the remaining instruments on Voyager 1 detected a change in high energy particles and gamma rays, signalling a change. However, not everyone agrees what is the point at which Voyager 1 can be considered to be in “interstellar space” – the vague point at which the effects of the Sun – primarily the solar wind – are no longer felt.
But now it seems at least they are back on the same page. The Voyager team at the Jet Propulsion Library issued a statement this afternoon:
The Voyager team is aware of reports today that NASA’s Voyager 1 has left the solar system,” said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. “It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space. In December 2012, the Voyager science team reported that Voyager 1 is within a new region called ‘the magnetic highway’ where energetic particles changed dramatically. A change in the direction of the magnetic field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change of direction has not yet been observed.
So it seems the AGU’s statement is actually old as well…so now everyone is waiting for the magnetic shift…and who knows when that will happen.
So, we may not be interstellar yet…but someday. And it is undeniable how amazing Voyager 1’s journey has been…