The Allen Telescope Array has detected the farthest human-made object from Earth, Voyager 1.
NASA’s Voyager 1 probe, launched 45 years ago and now traveling far beyond Pluto’s orbit, was detected by the Allen Telescope Array in California.
On July 9, 20 of the 42 dish antennas of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a radio observatory near San Francisco dedicated to discovering extraterrestrial life, reached out to Voyager 1 and made contact with it. The antennas are each about 20 feet (6.1 meters) in diameter. According to a statement, the telescope recorded 15 minutes of data, which scientists stored on a disk.
In the statement, the team said, “Detecting Voyager 1, the furthest human-made object, with the refurbished Allen Telescope Array, is an outstanding demonstration of the telescope’s capabilities and strengths, along with a testament to the outstanding hard work put into refurbishing the telescope since its inception in 2019”.
There was no further information provided about the signal it caught in the statement. Voyager 1 has been sending back nonsense data about its location in space due to a strange glitch, which experts have still not been able to understand fully.
Although NASA has not specified when the glitch first occurred, it first reported it in May. Despite the gibberish data, the agency believes Voyager 1 is safe, as if the data were accurate, Earth would not receive the signals delivered by the spacecraft.
As we reported previously, despite its gitch, the interstellar explorer continues to collect science data and return it to Earth; it is receiving and executing commands normally.
Despite this, the probe’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS) does not accurately represent what’s happening with the spacecraft.
The AACS is responsible for orienting the spacecraft. Voyager 1’s high-gain antenna keeps the spacecraft pointing precisely at Earth so that data can be sent back.
AACS does not appear to be malfunctioning, but its telemetry data is incorrect. As explained by experts, the data, for example, was generated randomly or was not indicative of AACS’s current state.
Currently, there is no indication that the spacecraft is in “safe mode,” which is a state where only essential operations are carried out so engineers can diagnose problems.
Voyager 1’s signal does not seem to have weakened either, suggesting that the antenna is oriented correctly.
NASA’s Deep Space Network still tracks Voyager 1, which is currently 14.5 billion miles away from Earth, 156 times the distance between the sun and Earth. The spacecraft delivers around 160 bits of data per second to Earth.
In the ten years since the mission entered what astronomers define as interstellar space, the spacecraft has measured interstellar medium properties beyond the edge of the heliosphere.
Despite being in interstellar space, Voyager 1 still must fly through the Oort Cloud, a region of space that is located over 200 sun-Earth distances from the sun and composed primarily of comets and asteroids.
The Oort Cloud has never been visited by a spacecraft, and Voyager 1 is expected to take about 300 years to reach it. It’s expected the probe will run out of fuel by 2025, shutting down its systems for good.
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