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Voyager 1 Probe Reaches Edge Of Solar System
Nasa's Voyager 1 spacecraft has surprised scientists by sailing into a distant realm of the solar system that they did not know existed.
The probe and its twin, Voyager 2, have been speeding away from the sun towards interstellar space - the space between stars.
Scientists now believe it has reached what is being dubbed a "magnetic highway" on the fringes of our solar system, where the magnetic field lines of the Sun meet cosmic rays streaming in from outside.
"We do believe this may be the very last layer between us and interstellar space," said chief scientist Ed Stone of the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the spacecraft.
Scientists predict it could take between a few months to a couple of years to fully escape the solar system.
Mr Stone said: "Although Voyager 1 still is inside the Sun's environment, we now can taste what it's like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway.
"The new region isn't what we expected, but we've come to expect the unexpected from Voyager."
The new results were described at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
The Voyagers launched 35 years ago on a mission to tour the outer planets.
Voyager 2, which is currently nine billion miles from the Sun, launched first, but Voyager 1 is closer to leaving the solar system behind - it is currently more than 11 billion miles from the Sun.