Friday, January 10, 2014

Voyager 1: Outward Bound

(From NASA/JPL-Caltech, used w/o permission.)
"This artist's concept shows NASA's Voyager spacecraft against a field of stars in the darkness of space. The two Voyager spacecraft are traveling farther and farther away from Earth, on a journey to interstellar space...."

Voyager 1 is outside the heliopause, outward bound. The robot spacecraft is still about one seventh as far from Earth's star as Sedna will be about 11,400 years from now. That'll be the year 13476, give or take: by which time humanity may have long since caught up with the Voyager probes, and that's almost another topic.

About 40,000 years from now, Voyager 1 will be 1.6 light years from AC +79 3888, and a tad farther from Sol, Earth's star. Gliese 445 is a shorter name for AC +79 3888, and whatever name you prefer: it'll be about 3.45 light-years from Sol when Voyager 1 goes past. You'll still need a telescope to see it, if you're on Earth at the time: which is unlikely, come to think of it.

The Lemming didn't find any planets listed for Gliese 445, but scientists are still sorting through data: and nowhere near finished with collecting more about Earth's neighbors. They'll probably be adding new planets to their catalogs for years. Decades. Centuries. Millennia. Longer.

Anyway, right now here are some pretty good places to check out if you're looking for nearby planets:
"Nearby" on a cosmic scale, of course.

Here's what Gliese 445 looks like, as seen through a telescope on Earth. That colored ring isn't part of the star: someone drew it on the photo so you'd know which dot is yet another name for AC +79 3888. Actually, it's an abbreviation of Gliese, and the Lemming's mind is wandering.

(From Caltech/Palomar Observatory, via NASA, used w/o permission.)
"At the center of this image is the star AC +79 3888, also known as Gliese 445, located 17.6 light-years from Earth. NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is on a trajectory out of our solar system, is headed toward an encounter with AC +79 3888. In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will be closer to this star than our own sun.

"The image was taken by the Oschin Schmidt Telescope near San Diego, Calif., on April 22, 1998. This telescope is operated by the California Institute of Technology and Palomar Observatory."

It occurs to the Lemming that Voyager 1 may not make it to its flyby of Gliese 445. 40,000 years is a long time, humans are already working on a prototype warp drive, and that robot spaceship would make a dandy exhibit for some museum.

Slightly-related posts:

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