Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Poor, Poor Voyager 1 . . .

Breathless news! Voyager has FINALLY departed the solar system! No more solar wind! Only interstellar keggers from now on! 

Except, no. 

Again, except no.
Phil Plait, who sometimes brings the breathless to the breathless internet, is the latest of a long series of gun-jumpers who announce that the Voyager 1 spacecraft has left the solar system, only to retract that a few hours later because he misread something. 

I’m as excited as he is – well, that’s a lie; I probably don’t lie awake nights wondering if this has happened yet or not – so don’t get me wrong. I just know we’ve heard these kinds of reports on a regular basis for the past, oh, five years or so. 

I know the science is uncertain. But even folks like Plait can’t seem to get past the breathlessness of it all to realize that. Of course, Plait et al are writing off press releases and reports hyped up by PR folks hoping to get their science in the news, and, well, saying Voyager 1 has at last departed is more exciting than saying, hey, we’ve got another study that says it’s reeeeeeeal close. We’ve seen those studies since, oh, at least 2008. And they’re neat. Real neat. 

But we’re tired of reeeeeeal close.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Voyager, just leave.

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