New research has confirmed that the Voyager 2 probe has emerged from the heliosphere. However, the real news is again obscured by fictional: it is often written that Voyager-2 and Vodyazher-1 left the solar system. Let's figure out why this is not so and what is wrong with a deception lasting 30 thousand years.
The boundary of the solar system lies where the gravity of our star is stronger than the gravity of neighboring stars (Hill's sphere). In the case of our star, its radius is approximately two light years. Roughly speaking, this is 19 trillion kilometers. That is, even the farthest away spacecraft of earthlings, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, have flown about one thousandth of the distance to the borders of the solar system. They fly for 42 years, from which it is easy to make a prediction: they will fly out of the system in about forty thousand years.
However, there are more optimistic estimates. NASA, which once created and launched Voyagers and still receives scientific information from them, believes that the boundary can be considered not Hill's sphere - suddenly there is nothing on its outskirts, only empty space, but the last real bodies orbiting the Sun. These are the comets of the Oort cloud, its farthest part from us. Therefore, the agency believes:
"Voyager 1" and "Voyager 2" have not yet left the solar system … Its boundaries are considered to be the outer edge of the Oort cloud … Its size is not yet known exactly, but … months. - Ed.) … It will take Voyager 2 … 30 thousand years to fly beyond the outer boundary of the Oort cloud."
Generally speaking, NASA's hopes for its probes to fly out of the solar system in just a paltry 30,000 years are based on shaky foundations. No one knows where the Oort cloud actually ends, and it is possible that it goes further than 15 trillion kilometers from the Sun. But let's believe the optimism of the American space agency.
All the same, the question arises: why the Western media - and after them ours - talk about the fact that the Voyagers left the solar system?
And where did these spacecraft actually end up? What is the news that they are trying to sell us as a "exit from the solar system"?
Where did Voyager 2 actually go?
Let's say right off the bat: Voyager's achievement is truly impressive. They have gone the farthest into space, so much so that some scientists consider them a threat to human civilization. How did it happen?
The mission was made possible by the observation of an overweight student at California Institute of Technology. In 1964, he discovered that by the late 1970s, the giant planets in the solar system would line up, allowing their gravity to be used to accelerate an interplanetary probe. Conventional rockets do not give spacecraft a very high speed - rarely more than 11-12 kilometers per second.
At this speed, a flight to Saturn or Neptune takes many years, and the probe's equipment runs the risk of being damaged by old age before it reaches these planets.
Therefore, Flandreau's idea, which made it possible to accelerate space zones up to 17 kilometers per second, was of great importance. True, money for space is always in short supply. Therefore, both Voyager probes, which were supposed to take advantage of the gravity of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune for self-acceleration, received a stripped-down task. They had to work only a few years and only explore Jupiter and Saturn.It was believed that the reliability required to reach Uranus and Neptune would require the creation of too expensive devices of a new type. Therefore, the Voyagers were allowed to use simpler Mariners, previously used by NASA to study nearby planets like Mars.
However, since the launch of both Voyagers, 42 long years have passed - about ten times more than their "guaranteed" terms of operation were supposed to. They flew past Uranus and Neptune for a long time and even flew out of the orbit of Pluto.
Since there are no other planets on their way, the vehicles explore the space environment surrounding them. It looks empty, but, in fact, it is saturated with particles. For example, particles of the solar wind, nuclei of hydrogen and helium atoms ejected by the Sun in all directions. The area where this solar wind dominates other charged particles (from outside the solar system) is called the heliosphere.
Of course, no one expected in advance that the Voyagers would reach the borders of the heliosphere with working instruments, and even capable of sending data to Earth. However, they exceeded all expectations, and as a result, in August 2012, Voyager 1 groped with its instruments the edge of the heliosphere - about 18 billion kilometers from the Sun. And in 2018, NASA finally announced that Voyager 2 had also left the heliosphere bubble. This means that he got into the interstellar medium - the one that lies between the regions of "stellar wind bubbles" of both our Sun and its neighboring stars.
Now, in November 2019, Nature Astronomy has published several papers on Voyager observations of the state of the environment outside the heliosphere. These are the first observations of this kind, moreover, absolutely unexpected and received from devices, from which no one expected such vitality. Before that, scientists did not know where the border of the heliosphere was, as well as how the amount of cosmic rays outside of it was changing.
The probes showed that normally about 70% of galactic cosmic rays are deflected by our heliosphere, that is, the penetrating radiation outside it is noticeably higher than inside. These data are not only important for theoretical astrophysics: they are needed from a practical point of view. The creators of any probes that can explore the ninth planet or even more distant bodies must know how aggressive the environment they are to fly.
Of course, Voyagers won't last forever. Since 2020, their systems will continue to be shut down due to a lack of energy, sometime after 2025 they will no longer be able to communicate with the Earth. But the significance of their discoveries will not diminish from this.
Why the media are ready to deceive the reader for 30 thousand years in a row
So, Voyager's achievement is pretty massive and impressive without any embellishments. Why, then, the media, following the press release on the English-language EurekAlert, call the incident the departure of the solar system? And why are they not embarrassed by the fact that NASA directly states: they will not leave the solar system in the next 30 thousand years?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not particularly pleasant. It lies in the fact that the news "Voyagers are leaving the heliosphere" is hard to make "box office". It is difficult to explain where the boundaries of the solar system are and why it should be considered an achievement that the Voyagers traveled a thousandth of the distance to them. Much easier to submit news, where loud words are heard about the exit from the solar system.
It is especially interesting that such news can be “sold” more than once - and not twice. For example, the publication "Lenta.ru" first reported about the departure of the Solar System by Voyager back in 2003 - 16 years ago. Ten years later, in 2013, it again wrote "Voyager 1 left the solar system." In 2018, Lenta reported that Voyager 2 also left the solar system. This is a high class: you rarely manage to earn traffic on news that is equally erroneous in content three times in a row. And do not think that "Lenta" is any special. In the same way, Meduza and a host of other media wrote about the departure of the same probes from the solar system.
As a result, such "news" inevitably causes great damage to the reputation of popular science publications and, unfortunately, even science itself. Sooner or later, the reader learns that the Voyagers have covered only a thousandth part of their journey from the solar system. But he does not always find out at what specific stage the information that has come down to him was distorted.
Some readers who once believed the press will think that the exaggerations were made by the scientists themselves, and not by the popular media. This is something that should be avoided under any circumstances, especially since in reality scientists do not call the incident "the exit of probes from the solar system."
Unfortunately, the real world is far from ideal. Many media outlets don't care that their big headline today will lead to a drop in - and interest - in their news tomorrow. In such conditions, the reader can only be advised one thing. Rely more on your head than on big headlines. The world is often not what it seems. More often than not, he is not what he wants to appear.