back to article Voyager goes off a (helio) cliff

Probably the most-loved survivor of 1970s space optimism, Voyager, has sent back signals indicating that it's left the heliosphere. Scientists are now discussing whether they should consider the 35-year-old probe to be in interstellar space, or to have entered a new region of space that hasn't been previously described. The …

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  1. LarsG

    It must be feeling really lonely.

    1. Don Jefe
      Happy

      Re:

      Nah. By now it is actually on board an alien spacecraft where it is undergoing study to determine who built it & return it to them. I've seen the movie.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re:

        Is that the one with John Travoltra ?

        1. Psyx
          Pint

          Re: Re:

          "Is that the one with John Travoltra ?"

          No, you're thinking of 'Saturday Night Fever'.

          1. NoOnions
            Alien

            Re: Re:

            Well, his suit was 'out of this world'...

      2. Suburban Inmate
        Alien

        Re: Re: @ Don Jefe

        Hold on, wasn't it manually targeted and blasted to smitherenes by a bored Klingon?

        1. Michael Habel Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: @ Don Jefe

          I think that Was Voyager 2. Wasn't Ve'ger some super intelligent Voyager 1

          1. MrZoolook
            Trollface

            Re: @ Don Jefe

            No... THAT was V'ger... ;)

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. asdf
    Pint

    keep going baby

    No matter what happens going forward at least Voyager will be mankind's tombstone for eternity (or at least until its protons decay far in the future). Unless someday we get our crap together and go retrieve it.

    1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: keep going baby

      "Unless someday we get our crap together and go retrieve it."

      Hey Bezos! Did you get that?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Coat

        Re: keep going baby

        That would incur a fearsome charge from a call out to an interstellar towing company

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: keep going baby

      We could retrieve it, but it would later be sent back along its path by the historical stickler society.

  3. Turtle

    The Real "Wow" Signal

    A transmission from Voyager, that far off and after this much time from launch, is the real "Wow" signal.

    1. IronSteve

      Re: The Real "Wow" Signal

      I agree, and the fact that it's instruments appear to still be functioning...amazing success story all round

      1. P Saunders

        Re: The Real "Wow" Signal

        things were built to last in the 1970s. Try getting that kind of mileage from anything built post 1990.

  4. Herby

    Pretty good!!

    For a transmitter with about as much power as a refrigerator light bulb. I believe it has about 15 watts or so in the transmitter. Nice to have a good antenna here on earth, and a slow data rate.

    Now everyone apply the inverse square law, and incorporate path loss.

    MJS77 is alive and well!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Pretty good!!

      But the radiation is bundled by the parabolic antenna, so it's less than inverse square...

      1. The First Dave
        Boffin

        Re: Pretty good!!

        No, the inverse square law still applies, it's just that you start off with a substantially greater fraction of full power.

  5. Grave

    18 billion km thats like saying

    you're 1 billion seconds old instead of 31 years.

    either use 18 terameters or 16.69 light hours

    now is that a short scale or long scale billion? :)

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: 18 billion km thats like saying

      Whats that in London double decker buses?

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/page/reg-standards-converter.html#velocity says...

      1952489424015.6204 Buses long.

      1. MrZoolook
        Thumb Up

        Re: 18 billion km thats like saying

        Dunno, but its about 1 in London traffic jams...

    2. Richard Chirgwin (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: 18 billion km thats like saying

      Or 708.66 billion cubits.

      1. Kharkov
        Trollface

        Re: 18 billion km thats like saying

        Yes, but can we measure that distance in bacon sandwiches?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Coat

          Re: 18 billion km thats like saying

          Depends how quickly you eat them..

          Mines the one with the emergency bacon sandwich in the pocket

      2. Shagbag
        Thumb Up

        Re: 18 billion km thats like saying

        Or the length of my cock.

        1. Rebajas
          Happy

          Re: 18 billion km thats like saying

          I don't think NASA has the supercomputer capabilities to measure such a large distance with such a small unit.

        2. Elmer Phud

          Re: 18 billion km thats like saying

          "Or the length of my cock."

          Is that the God Particle?

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Winkypop Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Imagine

    Maybe there's a probe from some place else headed our way!

    Then again, probably not.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Imagine

      On past form we won't notice it until it explodes over the Russian steppe...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Alien

        Re: Imagine

        ...seeding the planet with alien bacteria designed to create the perfect living environment for the alien hordes following behind in their spaceship; everyone keep an eye out for giant, carnivorous worms covered in pink fur!!!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Coat

        Re: Imagine

        Oh yes, you can just imagine the aliens mission control:

        "YES!!!! our very first probe is about to enter a planet with all the signs of life! this is extraordinary! significant!"

        "We are about to make first contact!!"

        BOOOM!!!!!!!

        "Oh bollocks...."

    2. Ted Treen
      Boffin

      Re: Imagine

      I am Nomad...

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  9. Anonymous Coward
    Windows

    Pah

    11 beeelion miles = 0.0018712 of a light year.

    A piffling figure which highlights a few things. Just how slow even a fast vehicle like Voyager is and how fucking VAST the universe is....

    Voyager is still one of our best acomplishments ever. Ever.....

    Roll on mankind. We have a lot to do.....

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    It's an impressive feat.

    As for the IT angle.

    1 of the first NASA processors to use CMOS for the logic and the memory (no core store. Even the Shuttle GPCs were not prepared to go that far).

    4Khz processor. <64KB of RAM. Try writing an image compression routine in that space.

    Bulk data storage by reversible tape drive.

    BTW it's true the parabolic aerial radiates about 15W but radio engineers talk in term of EIRP, effective isentropic radiated power, which would be the power you would need to deliver the same energy density in the beam across the surface area of a whole sphere. That number is quite impressive because the beam is such a small fraction of a sphere.

    1. JeffyPooh
      Pint

      Re: It's an impressive feat.

      "4Khz"

      4 kHz.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: It's an impressive feat.

        Actually neither is correct.

        Re-checking Computers in spaceflight, the NASA experience indicates the main cycle was 28 microseconds, or 35.714kHz. It's about 9% better than the Apollo AGC, which weighed about 90lbs (Voyagers was about 20lbs but only doubly redundant). Using COTS parts (albeit the rad hard SOS versions of 4000b parts) also probably made it a lot cheaper.

        The 4kHz signal is something I read in an E&WW article and was described as the "heartbeat" but the NSA book describes it as being about 0.5-1 Hz.

        TTFN

  11. FrankAlphaXII
    Alien

    JPL is raining on this paper and author's parade

    See http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-107. A very dry and not very informative press release written by some bureaucrat droid, but JPL and the Voyager project's official position.

    Wired's also being snarky about it, as they usually are. Though their point about how this is semantics is kind of how I feel about it. Everything the instruments see is brand new. We have never encountered this area of space before and it will be awhile before we do again, and even then I kind of doubt New Horizons will still be communicating 28 years from now, when its roughly the same age as Voyager-1. They don't build em like they used to. Hell, maybe I'm wrong, maybe it'll beat the odds and work better than the Voyagers in relative terms I strongly doubt it though.

    But honestly, being conservative about things that humanity has never encountered before, only speculated and theorized about would probably the better course of action and if the people who work on this thing at the very least weekly say they aren't seeing what they're expecting when they are truly into interstellar space, I'm kind of inclined to listen to them. It just amazes me they aren't hyping it to try and seek more money.

    1. Psyx
      Pint

      Re: JPL is raining on this paper and author's parade

      "It just amazes me they aren't hyping it to try and seek more money."

      They're too busy hyping asteroid DOOM on the back of the Russian impact. As we know from watching the news: People are more motivated and enraptured by fear than they are by curiosity.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: JPL is raining on this paper and author's parade

        > People are more motivated and enraptured by fear than they are by curiosity.

        So, that's solved the problem of the name for the next Mars rover, then

        1. Psyx
          Pint

          Re: JPL is raining on this paper and author's parade

          I'd certainly want a multi-ton nuclear powered tank with a laser, named 'Doom!' on Mars, rather than my living room!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Will it just eventually hit a black wall painted with stars and go "Tink"?

    Just like Truman Show?

    1. Psyx
      Happy

      Been done already: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Forever-Free-Joe-Haldeman/dp/1857989317

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        For that I prefer to think of Philip Jose Farmer's "World of Tiers" series. The title of the first, "Maker of Universes", rather gives the game away.

        In that case, it wouldn't hit a wall and go <tink>, it would hit the surrounding field that provides the impression of squillions of lightyears of shit, all packed into a few metres and be vapourised. We've still got a bit of a wait though, that was a light-year or so out IIRC.

        1. Psyx
          Thumb Up

          "For that I prefer to think of"

          Frankly, I would gladly think of ANYTHING other than Forever Free. It was appalling.

          Which is a shame, because The Forever War is to me the finest piece of sci-fi that I've ever read.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            > The Forever War is to me the finest piece of sci-fi that I've ever read.

            Yes, I read it as a teenager. Been afraid to reread it in case it wasn't as good as I remembered, but maybe I should.

            1. Psyx

              I love it. The writing style isn't perfect and there are flaws, but it has a slew of powerful messages that are missing from most books.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's past the hyper limit

    Time to jump into the alpha band.

  14. Andy 97
    Joke

    1979 technology... Phone makers take note.

    11BN Miles away and is still working and it's still managing to poll home AND it takes better pictures.

    *I do realize it also has a plutonium reactor thing strapped inside too, that could be problematic*

    1. Vic

      Re: 1979 technology... Phone makers take note.

      They were launched in 1977, so it'll be closer to 1969 technology...

      Vic.

  15. D. M

    In space, no one was holding it wrong

    Now you know if suddenly it cannot phone home anymore, then someone (space alien???) has been holding it wrong.

  16. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Sorry, nay-sayers..

    But after all these years, I think it's a freaking bit of what we can do, when we try. Thing's lasted longer then my (late) washing machine, and in a vastly more hostile environment. OK, doesn't have to cope with the missus' overload (Clothes, not weight). Bejeezus, the thing's been out there since I left technical college in 1977 and I aint that far from retirement! Bugger is still going, and so am I (just). I think it'll outlive me!

  17. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Pint

    Going places

    I remember seeing the Voyager launches on the news. I followed all the planetary fly-bys. That thing is really going places. Almost makes me feel lonesome (and certainly small)

    A toast to all engineers and scientists involved!

  18. bigphil9009
    Happy

    Voyager - never was a spacecraft so aptly named.

  19. Elmer Phud

    Kids Growing Up

    Our kid has just left home -- hope it rings back now and then.

    Just don't come back with some dodgy mates or do something that makes the cops call at 4 AM

  20. Beachrider

    It is only operational for a few more years...

    Voyagers probably won't make it to 2020. They still use fuel to keep that antenna pointed back at earth AND they use power to keep the 'brains' going. Both of which will exhaust in the next 7 years (they say).

    And then it inexorably goes on quietly into nothingness for centuries...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is only operational for a few more years...

      "will exhaust in the next 7 years"

      Hah! Eat your heart out, Tesla :)

  21. Jim 59

    Nice.

    Mind. Boggling.

  22. SirDigalot

    in the words of dory

    just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

    it would be funny if it did the same as in asteroids and as soon as it leaves one side of the solar system it wraps around and comes in on the other.

  23. J.G.Harston Silver badge
    Boffin

    But, the transition point between two regions is a x-pause, so it's passed the heliopause.

    (troposphere, tropopause, etc.)

  24. Matt 75
    Alien

    good old randall

    http://xkcd.com/1189/

  25. Assumed Name

    Epic FAIL

    Voyager has been out there screwing around for 35 years and hasn't found one alien civilization. What a joke. I want the nearly $1000 the project cost us plus the $75 they spent on that stupid gold record. What were they thinking sending a record into space? It makes us look like a bunch of waiting-to-be enslaved, pre-iPod cavemen. As soon as that lazy little probe gets it act together, aliens will be headed our way to rape our animals and eat our women- using that gold record like a freaking menu. Probably wearing Sony Walkmen listening to 80s music. Great. Thanks, NASA. Oh yeah, and unlike the drones we send into hostile environments on Earth, Voyager is UNARMED. We are doomed. Unless these aliens underestimate our capabilities based upon that record. Then we will enslave THEM with HD TV and hybrid cars. Maybe the NASA boys (and that one girl is name Dale who looks like a dude) are actually brilliant.

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