Voyager 1, the first human-created object to leave our Solar System, has quietly knocked off another milestone: it’s now more than 150 Astronomical Units from our Sun.
An Astronomical Unit is the distance from the Sun to Earth and has been defined as 149,597,870.7 km. At the time of writing NASA’s mission status page said Voyager 1 was therefore 22,439,680,605km from Sol.
Light and radio signals sent from Earth now take 20 hours and 43 minutes to reach the probe.
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The 150 AU mark is essentially meaningless – there’s nothing out there to mark the distance. But the mere fact that the probe is still out there and still working 45 years after its launch is always worth celebrating!
NASA publishes evidence of the craft's operations every week in a cryptic Space Flight Operations Schedule document. You can find this week's edition here [PDF].
Sadly we won’t be able to enjoy the craft for many more years. Voyager 1 currently operates just four of its instruments and won’t be able to sustain that next year. NASA says by 2025 it won’t be possible to keep any science instruments running, but that engineering data should continue to flow until 2036.
But by that time the two Voyagers will likely may be out of range of Earth’s Deep Space Network and lack the on-board power to phone home.
If there’s anyone on our virus-ridden world to talk to! ®