WASHINGTON (TIP): Voyager 1 spacecraft has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space, Nasa scientists have clarified, amid reports that the spacecraft has exited our solar system. “The Voyager team is aware of reports that Nasa’s Voyager 1 has left the solar system,” said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. “It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space,” Stone said in a statement. “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,” Stone said. The news of Voyager 1 exiting our solar system spread like wildfire in the scientific community after American Geophysical Union (AGU) issued a press release saying that a new study suggests that Voyager 1 has left our solar system. After Nasa’s released its official statement, AGU has issued a revised press release changing the headline to indicate that Voyager 1 had entered a new region of space rather than exited the solar system.
On August 25, 2012, Nasa’s Voyager 1 spacecraft measured drastic changes in radiation levels. “Within just a few days, the heliospheric intensity of trapped radiation decreased, and the cosmic ray intensity went up as you would expect if it exited the heliosphere,” said study author Bill Webber, professor emeritus of astronomy at New Mexico State University in the AGU statement. “It appears that [Voyager 1] has exited the main solar modulation region, revealing [hydrogen] and [helium] spectra characteristic of those to be expected in the local interstellar medium,” the authors wrote. Webber noted that scientists are continuing to debate whether Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space or entered a separate, undefined region beyond the solar system. “It’s outside the normal heliosphere, I would say that. We’re in a new region. And everything we’re measuring is different and exciting,” Webber said. Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched by Nasa on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and interstellar medium.