Voyager Data

The Astronomy Picture of the Day (aka APOD) today features a super cool plot of the dramatic up-turn in cosmic ray detection rate over the last year that Voyager 1 has measured, which may indicate that the spacecraft is entering true interstellar space.

Here for comparison is the full data (publicly available, thanks NASA!!) over the lifetime of both the twin Voyager probes for the cosmic ray instrument.

The upturn (highlighted by the red bar) is very noticeable from 2011 onwards. Sinusoidal modulations, measured by both spacecraft, seem to occur on roughly an 11 year cycleI think this figure is even more remarkable than the 1-year subset shown on APOD, as it gives you a flavor for both the history of the Voyager mission, and the magnitude of the discovery.

I frequently think how the seemingly menial data we collect today might be used in the future, and this figure is a grand example. If we want to discover the subtle things, things that take a long time to find, or only change noticeably on timescales longer than a human lifespan, then we need to take the best data possible now. This is our investment in the future of astronomy, and why you mind your p's and q's when reporting and storing your observations.

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