Monday, October 17, 2011

Voyager in Perspective

The Voyager 1 space probe is now about 17.8 billion kilometers from Earth (NASA has a nice counter here), but an article in today's NY Times puts that in perspective:
If Earth were in Orlando and the closest star system, Alpha Centauri, were in Los Angeles, then NASA’s two Voyager spacecraft, the most distant manmade objects, have traveled just one mile.

Another way of looking at the challenge is that in 10,000 years, the speed of humans has jumped by a factor of about 10,000, from a stroll (2.6 m.p.h.) to the Apollo astronauts’ return from the Moon (26,000 m.p.h.). Reaching the nearest stars in reasonable time — decades, not centuries — would require a velocity jump of another factor of 10,000.
Incidentally, Voyager 1's distance is 119.1 AUs, or about 16.5 light-hours. It's traveling at 3.3 AU/yr.

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