The Fate of Voyager: Where Will NASA’s Iconic Space Probe Be in a Billion Years? | Space

Within a billion years, NASA’s Voyager 1 probe will have made it to the opposite side of the Milky Way disk relative to the Sun. By the time it arrives, the Sun will have boiled off all the oceans on Earth, making it inhabitable. As a result, NASA might not be around to celebrate this remarkable milestone in the journey of one of its most iconic spacecraft.

Last month, I asked my brilliant undergraduate student at Harvard, Shokhruz Kakharov where the Voyager 1 spacecraft will be in a billion years. By using a detailed model for the mass distribution of the Milky Way galaxy, Shokhruz was able to plot the future orbit of Voyager relative to the Sun over billions of years. The results will be featured in a forthcoming peer-reviewed paper.

This may all sound academic and not anchored “down to Earth,” as the adults in the room often pretend to be. But the reason for my question was down to Earth. In fact, I wondered about this question because most stars formed billions of years before the Sun. Therefore, if Voyager’s-like rocketry was used on exoplanets more than a billion years ago, then the corresponding space probes might have reached the Solar system by now from anywhere within the Milky Way disk. We can observe these interstellar objects with our telescopes as they pass near Earth.

In particular, pairing an Earth-based telescope with the…


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