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NASA’s Hubble Telescope Creates Interstellar Map To Aid Future Galactic Travel

First Posted: Jan 10, 2017 03:00 AM EST
Voyager 1
Voyager 1 travelling through interstellar space.
(Photo : SpaceRip/YouTube screenshot)

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is creating a road map for the two Voyager spacecrafts, Voyager 1 and 2, that will travel through unexplored territories and interstellar space beyond the solar system. Hubble will help create the interstellar map by measuring the material along the two spacecraft's future trajectories.

"This is a great opportunity to compare data from in situ measurements of the space environment by the Voyager spacecraft and telescopic measurements by Hubble," said Seth Redfield, from Wesleyan University in the U.S. "The Voyagers are sampling tiny regions as they plow through space at roughly 38,000 miles per hour. But we have no idea if these small areas are rare or typical. The Hubble observations give us a broader view because the telescope is looking along a wider and longer path. So Hubble gives context to what each Voyager is passing through."

According to a report by IndianExpress, astronomers can use the observations made by Hubble to characterize the environment through which the Voyager spacecraft will travel even after they run out of electrical power and are not able to send back new data, something that could happen in the next 10 years. A preliminary analysis of Hubble's observations shows a complex, rich interstellar ecology that contains numerous clouds of hydrogen along with other elements.

Astronomers also hope that the observations made by Hubble will help in characterizing the physical properties of the local interstellar medium. Additionally, the data of Hubble and the two Voyagers combined have also provided new insights into how the Sun travels through interstellar space.

Incidentally, the twin Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft were launched by NASA in 1977, and both have explored Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 also explored Uranus and Neptune. Currently, Voyager 1 is traveling through interstellar space 13 billion miles away from Earth and Voyager 2 is 10.5 billion miles away from the planet. For the next decade, the Voyagers will be taking measurements of cosmic rays, magnetic fields and interstellar material along their path. NASA's Deep Space Network of telecommunications links enable the spacecraft to remain in contact with Earth.

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