Voyager 1 floating in limbo land, power loss sometime after 2020

Posted: June 30, 2013 by tchannon in Astrophysics


  • The final frontier: Nasa’s Voyager 1 on the verge of entering interstellar space
  • Spacecraft has been in uncharted territory since last summer
  • Scientists dubbed new layer of the solar system the ‘magnetic highway’
  • New research says probe has almost broken through into interstellar space

A paywalled item in Science apparently says things about the status of Voyager 1 but surprisingly a daily newspaper June 28th has done the legwork for a read. Sorry about the other content there.

Mail Online, Science & Technology


  1. Doug Proctor says:

    Rememberr “Vrger” from Star Trek 1, where the aliens reprogrammed Voyageur 1 into a spacecraft destroying creature, determined to rid the universe of imperfect machines?

    (Should have been reprogrammed to rid the universe of imperfect movies, but then some of the Star Trek movies would have disappeared.)

  2. Carla says:

    They say that the heliosphere’s bubble is at its maximum expansion during around Solar minimum. And around Solar maximum is when the expansion is minimum, because of time lag. If during this Solar Maximum, we aren’t producing the CME’s propagating outward, to make an expanded heliosphere, how much more will the heliosphere be shrinking during the next Solar Cycle 25? I’m thinking the Voyagers 1 + 2 will be shrunk out the bubble next Solar Cycle.

    But my brain is on vacation and need to straighten the desktop and file.


    This IBEX video press conference includes interviews with,
    IBEX lead Dave McComas, Sr. Scientist Pricilla Frisch and Dr Eberhard Mobius.
    And a Special Invited guest Seth Redfield (Remember “Cloud Tripping The Milky Way” Redfield and Linsky?) Seth is also involved in locating and plotting nearby astrospheres in the cloud maps. This is all too cool.
    Quote from Dr. David McComas IBEX Lead.
    “””The heliosphere is then dominated more by the Interstellar Magnetic Field than by pressure. Makes the magnetic field component even more important. My picture of the heliosphere now is that this is even more compressed by the Interstellar Magnetic Field and less driven by the inflowing pressure.”””
    E. Mobieus says of those pesky neutrals, “they just punch their way in”

    Some of the earlier research on the local interstellar clouds were indicating a Micro Interstellar Cloud (MIC) separating the Local Interstellar Cloud (LIC) (where we reside in but are near the edge of) from the neighboring cloud called G cloud. Because the MIC cloud was between two larger clouds they thought that it might be filamentary and turbulent. The Voyager 1 recently discovered that there is a huge intensely strong magnetic highway or magnetic convergence region. (a place where two fields intersect) Based on how many times Voyager 1 flopped in and out of this region may be indication of a turbulent filamentary region associated with the convergence of LIC and G clouds in this region of the inner arm.

  3. Carla says:

    Recent Voyager 1 Data Indicate that on August 25, 2012 at a Distance of 121.7 AU
    From the Sun, Sudden and Unprecedented Intensity Changes were Observed in
    Anomalous and Galactic Cosmic Rays
    W.R. Webber and F.B. McDonald
    ©2013 American Geophysical Union
    At the Voyager 1 spacecraft in the outer heliosphere the intensities of both anomalous
    cosmic rays (ACR) and galactic cosmic rays (GCR) changed suddenly and decisively on
    August 25th (121.7 AU from the Sun). Within a matter of a few days, the intensity of 1.9-2.7
    MeV protons and helium nuclei had decreased to less than 0.1 of their previous value and
    eventually the intensities decreased by factors of at least 300-500. Also on August 25th the
    GCR protons, helium and electrons increased suddenly in just 2 or 3 days by factors of up to
    two. The intensities of the GCR nuclei of all energies from 2 to 400 MeV then remained
    essentially constant with intensity levels and spectra that may represent the local GCR. The
    suddenness of these intensity changes indicate that V1 has crossed a well-defined boundary
    for energetic particles at this time possibly related to the heliopause.
    1. Introduction
    The passage of the Voyagers 1 and 2 spacecraft through the outer heliosphere
    (heliosheath) has revealed a region quite unlike the inner heliosphere inside the heliospheric
    termination shock (HTS). The radial solar wind speed slows down from ~400 km/s to ~130
    km/s (Richardson, et al., 2008) and later at about 20 AU beyond the HTS may decrease to
    very low values (Krimigis, et al., 2011). The anomalous and galactic cosmic ray (ACR and
    GCR) intensities hardly changed at the HTS contrary to theoretical expectations (Stone, et al.,
    2005). The magnetic field shows many distinct structures or features associated with the
    HTS and the heliosheath region beyond (Burlaga and Ness, 2010). One of the largest of these
    structures was encountered by V1 at 2009.7 when the spacecraft was ~17 AU beyond the
    HTS crossing distance of 94 AU. At this time the field direction suddenly changed from 90°
    to 270° possibly indicating a sector crossing. Also at this time the galactic cosmic ray
    electron intensity increased by an unprecedented 30% and the radial intensity gradients of
    these electrons and higher energy nuclei decreased by over a factor of two (Webber, et al.,
    2012). Sudden intensity increases of electrons and nuclei again occurred about 1.5 years later
    at a distance of ~116.5 AU or 22.5 AU beyond the HTS crossing distance. More recently a
    new series of changes have been observed starting at about 2012.0 in both GCR and ACR. In
    particular at about 2012.35 at ~120.5 AU from the Sun, large increases of both GCR nuclei
    and electrons were observed with little corresponding changes of ACR. In fact, throughout
    many of these unusual GCR intensity changes in the outer heliosphere, the ACR H, He and O
    nuclei from ~1-50 MeV hardly changed at all and any changes in ACR and GCR were not
    always correlated…

  4. Carla says:

    Some rather interesting comments from the article I posted above, note the possible sensitivy to solar rotation..
    page 6 of Discussion and Summary and Conclusions
    …If V1 is passing through a stationary medium, the decreases/increases would be
    caused by the passage of V1 through ribbons of field connected to the region beyond the
    barrier. These ribbons would be ~0.01 and ~0.02 AU thick, respectively, corresponding to
    the ~3 day event starting on July 28th and the 6-7 day event starting on August 14th.
    During the 28 days between the first precursor decrease and the “final” decrease, V1
    moves outward 0.3 AU. In a non-stationary scenario, since V1 moves from inside to outside
    the barrier on crossings 1, 3 and 5, the barrier itself must be moving. The intensity decreases
    on July 28th and August 13th could then be the result of outward motion of the barrier location
    and the intensity-time profiles of these decreases could be the result of speed variations of the
    barrier movements. The times between decreases 1, 3 and 5, which have remarkably similar
    initial intensity time profiles, are 16 and 12 days, respectively, about 0.5 of a solar rotation
    period. So the precursor decreases could, in this case, be the result of the boundary
    movement rather than V1 moving through stationary structures just inside the barrier itself…

  5. tchannon says:

    Going to be a lot of analysis in due course.

  6. Scute says:

    That’s not bad for the Daily Mail. I think they culled much of their info from the NASA link below which will be somewhat more reliable and devoid of worrying articles about Kim Kardashian’s post-pregnancy weight loss.

    “…interstellar space, or the space between stars.”

    That just about sums up the Daily Mail.

  7. Tenuc says:

    Great to have so many mysteries to explain because this means that their theories based on the standard model are wrong, with no predictive power. If only physicists would examine the relationship between photons, the electric field an magnetism maybe some logical explanations could be found.

    Do I expect this to happen? No – they will probably end up blaming it on Voyager satellite instrument errors. In modern science models always trump observation and faith is more important than fact. Lots of vested interest and jobs to protect in this rapidly crumbling edifice.

  8. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    Voyager 1 will have to be turned off by 2025

    Why has it got to be turned off?

  9. tchannon says:

    Taking a guess: it carries a radio beacon.

    I think it is a radioisotope power source which will dwindle with time.

    There has to be enough power to receive commands from earth. If an optional instrument is turned on there will not be enough power for the radio beacon over the coming years.

    Enough power has to be there to receive the instrument turn off command, fail and a one-way situation bites.

    In addition there is a limit to communication distance, signal from earth becomes too weak, that too might be a limitation.

    Choose one.

  10. Scute says:

    Yes Tim, it is a radioisotope power source.