This news item dropped quietly last night, but the significance may be incredible. Over the last week Voyager 1 has begun sending back data indicating that it is leaving the Sol System (the system of bodies orbiting our sun, a star named Sol)! While there's no hard boundary between our solar system and interstellar space, this is probably as close as it gets.
SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA *breath* AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!
It tickles me to death that someday I might tell my kids/grandkids that humanity became an interstellar race on my 23rd birthday.
The Voyager 1 launched in 1977 and has been cruising towards the edge of our galactic backyard for the past 35 years. Onboard both Voyagers is also mankind's first attempt at communication with extraterrestrials, a golden record with symbolic instructions for how to play it and data designed by such minds as Carl Sagan to introduce humanity to any of our cosmic neighbors who might happen upon the spacecraft as they hurtle through the abyss. In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will drift within 1.6 light years (9.3 trillion miles) of AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis. In some 296,000 years, Voyager 2 will pass 4.3 light years (25 trillion miles) from Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. By then the probes will be little more than time capsules, as their onboard systems will likely cease to function around the year 2020.