Space

Where are the Voyagers and Pioneers probes going, and how long will they fly there?

Spacecraft "Voyagers" and "Pioneers",launched from Earth in the 1970s, still follow their own paths, which brought them outside the solar system. In a new report published in the journal IOPscience, scientists predict the future of these probes and try to determine next to which star systems they will fly several million years later, reports the portal Space.com.

March 2, 1972 NASA Aerospace Agencylaunched the space probe "Pioneer-10", which will be the first man-made spacecraft to overcome the main asteroid belt of the solar system, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and is the site of many objects of various sizes, mostly irregular shapes, called asteroids or small planets. About a year later, the Pioneer 11 will be launched into space. In 1977, with a difference of several weeks, NASA will launch Voyager 2 first, and then Voyager 1. These devices, as well as the more "fresh" probe "New Horizons" - the only spacecraft created by mankind and reached interstellar space.

To date, "Voyage 1" and "Voyager 2"overcome this barrier. Nevertheless, if Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11 and New Horizons continue their journey, they will eventually break out of the sphere of solar exposure, called the heliosphere, and enter interstellar space.

Sooner or later all of these spacecraftnutrition will end, and they "die"; their scientific equipment will cease to function and the probes will no longer be able to communicate with the Earth. By the way, the last times when Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 sent signals back home were in 2003 and 1995, respectively. Despite the fact that these devices can no longer transmit data to Earth, scientists were able to find out near which stars they will fly in a few million years.

Scientists say that to calculate this data wasa very difficult task, since not only the probes are moving away from the Earth, but the space around them too. Astronomers Korin A. L. Bailer-Jones from Max Planck Institute of Radio Astronomy (Germany) and David Farnokkya from the Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (USA, California) were able to calculate the trajectories of the vehicles and their probable destinations using 3D location data and radial velocities of 7.2 million stars, which were obtained during the second analysis of data collected by the Gaia Space Observatory, whose goal is to study more than 1 billion surrounding our star system d.

In their study, Bailer-Jones and Farnokkyacalculated that the next star, past which, after 16,700 light years, the Voyager-1 probe will fly by is Proxima Centauri. However, in this meeting there will be nothing interesting, since the probe and the apparatus will separate 1.1 parsec, which is equivalent to almost 3.59 light years. It is very, very far. In fact, at the moment, Voyager-1 is about 1.3 parsec from this star (4.24 light years), a little further from its upcoming meeting point with Proxim. For reference: The sun is in 1.29 parsec (4.24 light years) from Proxima Centauri.

The nearest luminary, which will meet the probesVoyager 2 and Pioneer 11 will also become Proxima Centauri, while Pioneer 10 is scheduled to have a rendezvous with another star, Ross 248, a small red dwarf 10.3 light years from Earth located in the constellation Andromeda.

Scientists also calculated later perspectives.spacecraft encounters with other stars. For example, Voyadezher-1 will get close enough to the star TYC 3135-52-1, located 46.9 light years away, in about 302,700 years. A probe will fly past the star at a distance of just 0.30 parsec, which is less than one light year close enough to penetrate the Oort cloud of this star, representing the hypothetical spherical region of the system serving as the source of long-period comets (if, of course, this star has an analog cloud Oort, which is in our system).

In addition, the researchers found thatVoyager 1 will fly at a very short distance (just 0.39 parsec or 1.27 light years) next to the star Gaia DR2 2091429484365218432 located 159.5 parsec (520.22 light years) from the Sun. Recall that our Sun and Proxima Centauri (the star closest to us) divides the distance of 1.29 parsec (4.24 light years). According to astronomers, the device will fly past Gaia DR2 in 3.4 million years.

In a conversation with journalists Space.com Bailer-Jones noted that their study was prompted by their previous work, which was to determine the possible homeland, as well as the further trajectory of the movement of a strange object called “Oumuamua”, which many astronomers around the world are still fighting about.

“It was quite fun. But this study once again reminds us how long it will take the spacecraft to reach the stars closest to the Solar System at the current achievable speeds, which is now about 15 kilometers per second. If we want to study the nearest stars, we just need to figure out ways to accelerate our spacecraft to higher speeds, ”commented Bailer-Jones.

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