Are we there yet?That, my friend, is a marvelous question, but it would seem that we are not yet there.
WHEN will we be there? When will Voyager have escaped our solar system? What are they waiting on? Isn't it far enough away from our sun to qualify as "out"?
Indeed, a few of the criteria have been met already. See my previous Voyager blog post for some background info and read on for more info.
Heliosphere - our solar "bubble", the region of space our sun influences
Termination shock - the point in the heliosphere where the solar winds slow to the speed of sound because of interactions with the local interstellar medium causing compression, heat, and This is "shocking" because of the differences in speeds between slowing solar wind particles and other solar particles being regularly emitted.
Heliopause - the boundary where our sun's solar wind particles / energy ends and the interstellar medium increases. So far, I think this is a theoretical boundary, not yet witnessed, but assumed to be there. I wonder how it looks now that we know our solar system has a tail...
I'm not ashamed to admit I have been stalking Voyager data lately.
You can too! Below, there are exciting article links with recent info and links to new data being downloaded daily from Voyager. I check the second data link (the one with charts!) almost every day. Why? Well, this is my FAVORITE SPACECRAFT and IT'S GETTING VERY CLOSE to being declared interstellar and I believe that IT'S IMPORTANT FOR HUMANITY that we be keenly and proactively interested in interstellar exploration / travel / research. It could be ANY DAY NOW that the official declaration occurs and I for on plan on celebrating!
CRITERIA FOR BEING DECLARED INTERSTELLAR1. A steady drop in collisions with low-energy particles from our sun. CHECK
2. A steady rise in collisions with high-energy particles from beyond our system. CHECK
3. Change in magnetic field direction from our sun to interstellar field beyond. NOT YET
So there you have it.
We are all waiting on a magnetic field direction change. This is where the magnetic highway comes into play. It is like a path along which particles are socializing and walking in and out. In other words: it's a GREY AREA and not a brick wall type of boundary that makes up our "edge".
Where to look for new data?1. http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/science/Voyager_Science_Data.html Has several different types of data and link to each scientific organization and monitoring system
2. Here are the six-hour charts I love: http://voyager.gsfc.nasa.gov/heliopause/data.html
" The Cosmic Ray Subsystem team has made available 6-hour, 24-hour and 26-day data listings and yearly plots for 14 Hydrogen and Helium intensities and two counting rates. The following links will take you to interfaces which will allow you to select the data of choice. The entire Voyager data base consisting of approximately 165 rates and intensities is also available from our ARCHIVE."
No one knows exactly what our solar bubble / membrane looks like, but now we know that it is surrounded by an area with magnetic bubble pockets, an area now known as the magnetic highway and that our solar system actually has a "tail".
Here are links to recent interesting articles:Our Solar System's Edge is "less edgy" - http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/jul/09/nasa-voyager-solar-system-edge
Solar System's Edge - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23075332
Magnetic bubbles - http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/jun/HQ_11-174_Voyager_Update.html
Magnetic highway - http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/voyager/multimedia/pia16486.html
Solar System Tail - http://www.universetoday.com/103412/our-solar-system-has-a-tail-shaped-like-a-four-leaf-clover-new-findings-from-ibex/
Solar System Has a Tail - http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/351477/description/News_in_Brief_The_solar_system_has_a_tail
HAPPY DATA STALKING! ;-)