NASA to send Interstellar Probe 92billion miles away to edge of heliosphere
NASA will send a probe billions of miles away to understand how the solar system was formed.
The Interstellar mission by John Hopkins University and NASA will send a probe 92billion miles beyond the edge of the heliosphere by the early 2030s.
The heliosphere is the bubble of space surrounding the sun and enclosing all the planets, from Mercury to Neptune.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, launched in 1977, are the only probes to venture outside the heliosphere, travelling 14 and 11billion miles away from Earth.
This area, affected by solar winds, has left boffins with questions after the edge of the bubble was discovered more than 40 years ago.
The Voyagers' instruments gave limited data on their missions, leaving gaps in understanding the heliosphere, leading to NASA and partners proposing another mission.
Currently called the Interstellar Probe, the space agency wants to send the spacecraft 1,000 AU (astronomical units), which is 1,000 times further than the distance between the Earth and the sun.
It'll be a first for mankind to have sent a spacecraft so far away from Earth.
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Along the 92-billion-mile journey, marking the inner edge of the Oort Cloud, a stretch of ancient comets and icy rocks, the probe will analyse the bubble and planets.
It will venture into unknown interstellar space where humans have never reached before.
Probe lead Elena Provornikova said that "for the first time, we will take a picture of our vast heliosphere from the outside to see what our solar system home looks like."
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Around 500 scientists and engineers are involved in the project on an informal and formal basis across the globe.
The team hopes to solve how the sun's plasma interacts with interstellar gas to create the heliosphere as well as what lies beyond it.
They also want to find out what the bubble looks like.
The mission will take images of the heliosphere and may 'observe extragalactic background light' from the beginnings of the galaxy, which can't be seen from Earth.
The heliosphere shields our solar system from high-energy galactic cosmic rays.
At the end of the year, the team will report to NASA outlines, instrument payloads, and trajectory designs for the mission.
Once launched, the probe would take around 15 years to reach the boundary.
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