Confirmed: Voyager 2 Finally Reaches Interstellar Space, 42 Years After Its Launch

In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to venture beyond our solar system. The space probe is no longer alone in that distinction. Today—November 4, 2019—researchers at the University of Iowa confirmed that Voyager 2 has entered interstellar space after starting its journey from Earth 42 years ago.

Voyager 2 has made history many times since its 1977 launch. It's been to Saturn and Jupiter, and it remains only spacecraft that has explored Uranus and Neptune. After exhausting the outer reaches of our solar system, Voyager 2's next destination became the mysterious regions of space that lie beyond it.

A new study from the University of Iowa published in the journal Nature Astronomy confirms that Voyager 2 left the realm of our sun on November 5, 2018. The point where our solar system ends and interstellar space begins may seem hard to define, but the Voyager crafts have provided scientists with a clear answer.

Rather than gradually transitioning from one type of space to another, our solar system has a physical boundary. The sun gives off a "solar wind" that's hot and low in plasma. This solar wind creates a bubble, called the heliosphere, that stretches billions of miles from the sun. On the other side of this bubble, space is much cooler and more dense in plasma. There's a clear point where the bubble ends, like what you'd see with a bubble of oil in a glass of water.

About a year ago, a plasma-wave instrument aboard Voyager 2 recorded a dramatic jump in plasma density, indicating that it had crossed over from the heliosphere into interstellar space. It made the transition about 11.1 billion miles from the sun, which is roughly the same distance Voyager 1 clocked when it entered interstellar space from a different point in the solar system.

"It implies that the heliosphere is symmetric, at least at the two points where the Voyager spacecraft crossed," study co-author Bill Kurth said in a news release. "That says that these two points on the surface are almost at the same distance."

Co-author Don Gurnett added, "There's almost a spherical front to this. It's like a blunt bullet."

Now that both Voyagers are in the part of space that lies between the stars, they will orbit the galaxy for 5 billion years or longer. Scientists predict they will outlast Earth.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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NASA Names Washington, D.C., Headquarters After ‘Hidden Figure’ Mary Jackson

Mary W. Jackson at NASA in 1980.
Mary W. Jackson at NASA in 1980.
Adam Cuerden, NASA Langley Research Center, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In the past, NASA’s headquarters building in Washington, D.C., was simply known as “NASA Headquarters” or “Two Independence Square” (the name of that particular piece of real estate). This week, the agency officially named it the “Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters,” after NASA’s first Black female engineer.

Jackson worked as a math teacher and U.S. Army Secretary before NASA—called the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at the time—recruited her as a research mathematician for its segregated West Area Computing Unit in 1951. After completing a training program in 1958 (which she needed special permission to attend, since it took place at a whites-only high school), she was promoted to engineer.

In the following decades, Jackson studied wind tunnels and air behavior around aircraft, and she was also instrumental in helping the U.S. pull forward in the Space Race of the 1960s. But Jackson’s legacy goes beyond her own engineering efforts: Between 1979 and 1985, she participated in the Federal Women’s Program at NASA’s Langley Research Center, where she advocated for the hiring and promotion of more female scientists.

mary jackson with young female scientists in 1983
Jackson with a group of young scientists and mathematicians in 1983.

“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a press release. “Mary never accepted the status quo; she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”

Jackson died in 2005, and her story was largely unknown until the release of Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book Hidden Figures and subsequent film of the same name, which chronicled the contributions of Jackson and her colleagues Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden. In 2019, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to rename the part of E Street SW where NASA’s headquarters is located to Hidden Figures Way, and the women were also awarded Congressional Gold Medals.

NASA headquarters
The Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” Jackson’s daughter Carolyn Lewis said in the press release. “She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation.”