Milky way

A map of the Milky Way. Credit: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Holiday tidings come from NASA’s Voyager 2 this week, offering a view of deep space beyond our sun’s solar system.

Now speeding through space at more than 34,000 miles-per-hour, the 1977 space probe resides more than 8.3. billion miles away from the sun. That is twice as far as Pluto. Two years ago, Voyager 2 passed into the region of space where the sun’s solar wind peters out as it plows into the interstellar gases of our Milky Way galaxy. And now it’s giving us some news from this region, called the “heliosheath,” by astrophysicists.

“This is a magic mission,” says space scientist Merav Opher of George Mason University. in Fairfax, Va.. “After all these years, Voyager 2 is still working and sending us first hand (on-site) data.”

Voyager 2’s vantage, revealed in the Dec. 24 Nature journal in a study led by Opher and colleagues, shows that beyond the solar system, the galaxy’s magnetic field is unexpectedly strong, about twice as much as expected, and unexpectedly tilted. Our galaxy is essentially a twin-armed flat disk of stars 100,000 light years across rotating around a spherical ball of stars in its center (one light year is about 5.9 trillion miles.).

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