Is there anybody out there?

NASA says that Voyager 1 is now beyond the borders of our solar system

Mark Hendricks, Science & Technology Editor Ω

Space exploration isn’t the cultural touchstone that it used to be. No event in space exploration has ever caught the imagination of the public like the great space race between the United States and the U.S.S.R. which culminated with the first man landing on the moon.

A model of Voyager 1 that's on display in the National Air and Space Museum in the US. brewbooks/Flickr Commons

A model of Voyager 1 that’s on display in the National Air and Space Museum in the US. brewbooks/Flickr Commons

In August another milestone was achieved in space exploration. Voyager 1 became the first man-made object to leave our solar system, according to a paper published in the journal Science Sept. 12. This is the first time NASA has confirmed Voyager 1 as leaving the solar system.

“The Voyager mission was important because people have always wanted to know where they came from. That’s kinda the ultimate question,” said Joanne Rosvick, professor of astronomy and physics at TRU. “Voyager going through the outer parts of the solar system sent back a lot of data that enabled astronomers to form a model of how they think our solar system formed.”

Colin Taylor, chair of the physics and astronomy department at TRU, pointed out that there is no definite boundary to the solar system and that the question of whether or not it has left is still open to interpretation, but he did remark how impressive it is that technology launched in the ‘70s is still functional.

A gold disc created by NASA containing sounds from Earth. It, along with Voyager 1 has officially left the solar system. Courtesy NASA/JPL.

A gold disc created by NASA containing sounds from Earth. It, along with Voyager 1, has officially left the solar system. Courtesy NASA/JPL.

Voyager 1 was launched with a gold-plated audio-visual disc containing records of the Earth, pictures and sounds of the planet and some of the animals on it, various scientific information and greetings in a variety of languages.

“It contains a record of who we were and when we were here, so even though it may not be found by another civilization for a long time … they’ll know we were here, even if we’re no longer here when it’s found,” said Rosvick.

Voyager 1 is expected to continue broadcasting back to earth until 2025, when the atomic batteries that power it will run out, well before it reaches the nearest star in another 40,000 years.