The Voyager spacecraft launched into space in 1977 is helping science 43 years later, billions of kilometers from their home planet in outer space. U.S. researchers have discovered a new type of explosion of cosmic electron rays from the Sun using instruments from the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft, accelerating the shock waves created by large star eruptions.
A few days after the explosion of the accelerated electrons, the oscillations of the plasma wave, caused by the electrons of lower energy, reached the instruments in the spacecraft and a month later – the shock wave itself. According to physicists, electrons move at a speed close to the speed of light in the stellar range – 670 times faster than the shock waves that gave them momentum. Reflected by the enhanced magnetic field at the edge of the shock wave, the electrons spiral along the lines of force of the interstellar magnetic field, gaining speed as the distance between them and the shock wave increases. Interestingly, the shock waves took more than a year to reach the Voyager spacecraft, which is more than 22 billion kilometers from the Sun.
In a press release from the University of Iowa, Don Gurnett, head of research for renowned professor of physics and astronomy, explained: “When a shock wave touches the magnetic field lines between stars passing through a spacecraft, it reflects and accelerates some electrons from cosmic rays. it is a mechanism that was not known. “
The mechanism of particle acceleration by shock waves itself is not new, but scientists have not previously recorded it in the stellar range, as it is very different from the solar wind, as previous processes were detected. The researchers believe the results will help us understand cosmic radiation and shock waves. Finally, astronauts can help protect themselves from the effects of radiation by flying into the depths of space.
According to modern rules the possibility of making new discoveries with the help of old equipment is very remarkable. Voyager probes use two very old electronics: the frequency of their processors is over 250 kHz for modern chips (even for consumers) and it takes about a day and a half to communicate with the devices. This is another proof of the reliability of the technology. But there is less and less hope for new discoveries, as the latest scientific tools on all spacecraft are expected to fail around 2025.
Curiously, in November, scientists reported that they were able to restore two-way communication with the Voyager 2 probe: the DSS43 (Deep Space Station 43) antenna in Canberra (Australian capital) was repaired and refurbished, as the device had been for eight months. independent flight. Specialists could only receive certain information from the space station, but did not send control orders.
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