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NASA's Voyager 1 Is Now 13 Billion Miles From Earth

It's been an incredible journey.

10/01/2017 12:22 | Updated 10 January 2017

Since 1977, NASA’s Voyager probes have travelled several billions of miles through space, further than any human-made object before them.

So where exactly have they ended up?

Thanks to the Hubble Telescope, we now have a roadmap which shows the two probes’ journey thus far, as well as where they’re heading. 

As the map shows, both craft are flying through an interstellar medium between our star and its nearest neighbour. Voyager 1 is just a little further than its counterpart, having clocked up 13 billion miles since it left Earth.

But while we know roughly where they are, we’ve never known much about the regions they’re exploring, until now.

NASA ESA and Z Levay STScI

The two spacecraft relay data about their surroundings, but it’s only when the data is cross-referenced with Hubble’s findings that astronomers can start to build an accurate picture of the unexplored territories.

And that’s exactly what researchers are starting to do. 

“This is a great opportunity to compare data from in situ measurements of the space environment by the Voyager spacecraft and telescopic measurements by Hubble,” said study leader Seth Redfield of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

“The Voyagers are sampling tiny regions as they plow through space at roughly 38,000 miles per hour. But we have no idea if these small areas are typical or rare,” Redfield added.

“The Hubble observations give us a broader view because the telescope is looking along a longer and wider path. So Hubble gives context to what each Voyager is passing through.”

NASA NASA / Reuters

NASA announced that a preliminary analysis of the Hubble observations has revealed a rich, complex interstellar ecology, containing clouds of hydrogen laced with other elements.

But there’s more work to be done. 

Hubble team member Julia Zachary of Wesleyan University said: “Ideally, synthesizing these insights with in situ measurements from Voyager would provide an unprecedented overview of the local interstellar environment.”

It’s hoped the spacecrafts will relay data about interstellar material, magnetic fields and cosmic rays to Earth for at least another decade.

After that, their batteries are expected to die, but it will have been a good run. Our smartphone’s can’t even last a day.

NASA’s Favourite Photos Of 2016

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    In this 30 second exposure taken with a circular fish-eye lens a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower as a photographer wipes moisture from the camera lenses Friday August 12 2016 in Spruce Knob West Virginia
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    The second and final qualification motor QM-2 test for the Space Launch Systems booster is seen Tuesday June 28 2016 at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems test facilities in Promontory Utah
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    The Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 48 crew members NASA astronaut Jeff Williams Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan Kazakhstan on Wednesday Sept 7 2016Kazakh time
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    In this long exposure photograph the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft is seen launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 50 crewmembers NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Friday Nov 18 2016
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    The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos Wednesday Oct 19 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
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    The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome Kazakhstan Monday July 4 2016
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    NASA astronaut Jeff Williams left Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos center and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos are seen inside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft a few moments after they landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan Kazakhstan on Wednesday Sept 7 2016Kazakh time
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    The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 48-49 crewmembers Kate Rubins of NASA Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA onboard Thursday July 7 2016 Kazakh time July 6 Eastern time Baikonur Kazakhstan
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    In this 30 second exposure a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower Friday August 12 2016 in Spruce Knob West Virginia
  • NASA/Aubrey Gemignani
    From left to right Jack Connerney Juno deputy principal investigator and magnetometer lead co-investigator NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center Chris Jones associate director for flight projects and mission success NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL Dr Jim Green Planetary Science Division Director NASA Scott Bolton Juno principal investigator Southwest Research Institute Geoff Yoder acting Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate NASA Michael Watkins director NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL and Rick Nybakken Juno project manager Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL celebrate with others on the Juno team after they received confirmation from the spacecraft that it had successfully completed the engine burn and entered orbit of Jupiter Monday July 4 2016 in mission control of the Space Flight Operations Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena CA
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    The Orbital ATK Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard launches from Pad-0A Monday Oct 17 2016 at NASAs Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia
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    The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 49 crew members NASA astronaut Kate Rubins Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA near the town of Zhezkazgan Kazakhstan on Sunday Oct 30 2016
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    The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASAs Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer OSIRIS-REx spacecraft lifts off on from Space Launch Complex 41 on Thursday Sept 8 2016 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida
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    This composite image made from ten frames shows the International Space Station with a crew of six onboard in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly five miles per second Saturday Dec 17 2016 from Newbury Park California
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    The Orbital ATK Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard launches from Pad-0A Monday Oct 17 2016 at NASAs Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia
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