Companionless in the dark vacuum of space and billions of kilometers from home, it was a lonely way to celebrate a birthday, but this is exactly how one pair of space-faring twins recently passed their 35th birthday.
When the Voyager probes were launched in 1977 no one could have suspected that 35 years later these rickety old probes would still be pushing forward the boundaries of science.
Initially designed to study the planetary systems of the gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, Voyagers 1 have been traveling ever since – making new discoveries at every step of their epic journey.
Now, 35 years and 18.4 billion kilometers later, Voyager 1 is leaving our solar system behind it and passing into the dark, unexplored expanse of interstellar space.
For two years now, data beamed back from Voyager 1 (data that takes more than 16 hours to reach Earth) has hinted that the venerable machine might finally be passing the outer limits of our solar system. But things aren’t quite what scientists expected them to be.