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Originally posted by ArchaicDesigns
reply to post by ~widowmaker~
Voyager 1 is being powered by three large radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) mounted end to end on a boom. Each one contains 24 pressed plutonium-238 oxide spheres.
The power output of the RTGs does decline over time (halving every 87.7 yrs), but the RTGs of Voyager 1 will continue to support some of its operations until around 2025.
I'm not sure but I think it only uses its power to run all the instruments on board and for its initial launch.
edit on 6-12-2012 by ArchaicDesigns because: (no reason given)
“At that great distance it takes more than 16 hours for a radio signal to travel from the spacecraft to one of NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas. The signal strength is so incredibly weak that it requires a giant 230-foot-diameter dish antenna to pick up the signal,” says Gurnett, principal investigator for Voyager 1’s plasma wave instrument.
Since December 2004, when Voyager 1 crossed a point in space called the termination shock, the spacecraft has been exploring the heliosphere's outer layer, called the heliosheath. In this region, the stream of charged particles from the sun, known as the solar wind, abruptly slowed down from supersonic speeds and became turbulent. Voyager 1's environment was consistent for about five and a half years. The spacecraft then detected that the outward speed of the solar wind slowed to zero.
The intensity of the magnetic field also began to increase at that time.
Voyager data from two onboard instruments that measure charged particles showed the spacecraft first entered this magnetic highway region on July 28, 2012. The region ebbed away and flowed toward Voyager 1 several times. The spacecraft entered the region again Aug. 25 and the environment has been stable since.
"If we were judging by the charged particle data alone, I would have thought we were outside the heliosphere," said Stamatios Krimigis, principal investigator of the low-energy charged particle instrument, based at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md. "But we need to look at what all the instruments are telling us and only time will tell whether our interpretations about this frontier are correct."
New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars. Voyager is in a transitional region immediately outside the solar bubble, where some effects from our sun are still evident.
The plasma wave science team reviewed its data and found an earlier, fainter set of oscillations in October and November 2012. Through extrapolation of measured plasma densities from both events, the team determined Voyager 1 first entered interstellar space in August 2012.
"We literally jumped out of our seats when we saw these oscillations in our data -- they showed us the spacecraft was in an entirely new region, comparable to what was expected in interstellar space, and totally different than in the solar bubble," Gurnett said. "Clearly we had passed through the heliopause, which is the long-hypothesized boundary between the solar plasma and the interstellar plasma."
The new plasma data suggested a timeframe consistent with abrupt, durable changes in the density of energetic particles that were first detected on Aug. 25, 2012. The Voyager team generally accepts this date as the date of interstellar arrival. The charged particle and plasma changes were what would have been expected during a crossing of the heliopause.