Plotting the Destinations of 4 Interstellar Probes

Only 50 000 Years to Aldebaran!

2 min read
Plotting the Destinations of 4 Interstellar Probes
Image: Roger Sinnott & Rick Fienberg/Sky & Telescope/International Astronomical Union

This past October, NASA announced that after 36 years of flight, Voyager 1 had finally crossed into the interstellar medium that fills the space between the stars. Although it is the first probe to do so, Voyager 1 is not alone in its one-way mission out of the solar system: Four other probes are following it. The destinations of Voyager 1 and 2 and Pioneer 10 and 11 are plotted below. The ultimate destination of the fifth probe—the New Horizons mission to Pluto—is still unknown (its trajectory will be adjusted during its mission in hopes of sending it past another Kuiper Belt object). Although these probes will be dead metal when they reach the stars, all but New Horizons have messages on board designed to be decoded by aliens—just in case.

Voyager 2: Sirius Voyager 2: Sirius  In about 40 000 years, Voyager 2 will zoom by Ross 248, a dim red dwarf about 10 light-years from the sun. After another 256 000 years, Voyager 2’s wanderings will take it in the direction of the brightest star in our sky: Sirius, currently 8.6 light-years away.

Pioneer 10: Aldebaran Pioneer 10: Aldebaran  Pioneer 10, the first probe to visit Jupiter, is now headed in the direction of Aldebaran, a red giant 44 times the diameter of the sun and 68 light-years distant. The probe’s closest approach will be in about 2 million years.

pioneer 11: Lambda Aquilae Pioneer 11: Lambda Aquilae  Three times the mass of the sun and 55 times as bright, Lambda Aquilae is a young star, only 160 million years old. It will take 4 million years for Pioneer 11 to drift into Lambda Aquilae’s neighborhood, 125 light-years away.

This article originally appeared in print as “The Stars Their Destination.”

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​​Why the World’s Militaries Are Embracing 5G

To fight on tomorrow's more complicated battlefields, militaries must adapt commercial technologies

15 min read
4 large military vehicles on a dirt road. The third carries a red container box. Hovering above them in a blue sky is a large drone.

In August 2021, engineers from Lockheed and the U.S. Army demonstrated a flying 5G network, with base stations installed on multicopters, at the U.S. Army's Ground Vehicle Systems Center, in Michigan. Driverless military vehicles followed a human-driven truck at up to 50 kilometers per hour. Powerful processors on the multicopters shared the processing and communications chores needed to keep the vehicles in line.

Lockheed Martin

It's 2035, and the sun beats down on a vast desert coastline. A fighter jet takes off accompanied by four unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs) on a mission of reconnaissance and air support. A dozen special forces soldiers have moved into a town in hostile territory, to identify targets for an air strike on a weapons cache. Commanders need live visual evidence to correctly identify the targets for the strike and to minimize damage to surrounding buildings. The problem is that enemy jamming has blacked out the team's typical radio-frequency bands around the cache. Conventional, civilian bands are a no-go because they'd give away the team's position.

As the fighter jet and its automated wingmen cross into hostile territory, they are already sweeping the ground below with radio-frequency, infrared, and optical sensors to identify potential threats. On a helmet-mounted visor display, the pilot views icons on a map showing the movements of antiaircraft batteries and RF jammers, as well as the special forces and the locations of allied and enemy troops.

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