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NASA: Voyager 1 Entered Interstellar Space, Some Scientists Still Divided

Update Date: Sep 12, 2013 11:04 PM EDT

NASA confirmed Thursday that Voyager 1 has left our solar system and entered interstellar space more than a year ago, after travelling for 36 years in space.

"Voyager has boldly gone where no probe has gone before, marking one of the most significant technological achievements in the annals of the history of science," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate on Thursday at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

Data gathered by the Plasma Wave Science (PWS) instrument on Voyager has now prompted the team to announce the exit occurred on 25 August 2012. Voyager 1 launched in 1977 and is now more than 11 1/2 billion miles from the sun, travelling through what scientists call interstellar space - the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, NASA said.

Scientists have long disputed when Voyager 1 crossed over as there is no clear boundary line. While some scientists said they remain unconvinced, NASA celebrated.

"It's a milestone and the beginning of a new journey," said mission chief scientist Ed Stone at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

NASA said Voyager 1 will now study exotic particles and other phenomena in a never-before-explored part of the universe and radio the data back to Earth, where the Voyager team awaits the starship's discoveries.

"We have a lot to learn still, I think, is what it means," says Voyager scientist Stamatios Krimigis of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

 "In the same way that Sputnik carried us out of the Earth's atmosphere in 1957, Voyager has now carried us outside the sun's atmosphere," Krimigis says. "It is quite an achievement in the short time that we have had spaceflight."

Given the estimated lifetime of the plutonium battery aboard Voyager 1, its last signals should be heard on Earth around 2025, Stone added.

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