List of artificial objects escaping from the Solar System
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The red and green arrows indicate the positions of Voyager 1 and Pioneer 10 respectively at the end of 2008; the blue shell indicates the estimated size of the Termination Shock they have entered, while the grey torus shows the Kuiper belt. The yellow shell indicates one light-day distance from the Sun. Click on image for larger view and links to other scales.|
Below is a list of artificial objects escaping from our Solar System. All of these objects are space probes launched by NASA, the United States space agency, and do not include those missions that went into orbit around planets.
- Pioneer 10 – Launched in 1972, flew past Jupiter in 1973. Contact lost in January 2003 and is en route to Aldebaran in Taurus.
- Pioneer 11 – Launched in 1973, flew past Jupiter in 1974 and Saturn in 1979. Contact lost in November 1995.
- Voyager 1 – Launched in September 1977, flew past Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980, making a special close approach to Saturn's moon Titan. Probe entered the heliosheath around 2004 and is still active.
- Voyager 2 – Launched in August 1977, flew past Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. Probe has passed the heliosheath, but is still active.
- New Horizons – Launched in 2006, probe made flyby of Jupiter in 2007, will make a flyby of Pluto in 2015. Flyby of Pluto may be followed by a flyby of a Trans-Neptunian object in the Kuiper belt.
In addition, the upper stages of Pioneer 10, Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and New Horizons are also escaping the solar system. In the case of Pioneer 10, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, their upper stages followed a trajectory very close to that of their respective spacecrafts. Their subsequent encounter with Jupiter boosted them into a hyperbolic escape orbit. The upper stage of New Horizons was launched directly into a hyperbolic escape orbit. The upper stage of Pioneer 11 is believed to be in solar orbit because its initial trajectory towards Jupiter would not have resulted in a hyperbolic escape orbit. Pioneer 11 gained the required velocity to escape the Solar System in its subsequent encounter with Saturn. The two small despin masses from the New Horizons upper stage are also escaping the solar system.
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Published - July 2009