The Voyager-1 probe has left the Solar System, according to some scientists.
If confirmed, it would be the first man-made object to do so.
Launched in September 1977, the probe was sent initially to study the outer planets, but then just kept on going.
Researchers who have studied its data indicate it has now entered a realm of space beyond the influence of our Sun.
But the US space agency (Nasa) says there is still some doubt about this.
Voyager is currently moving more than 18 billion km from Earth, or 123 times the distance between our planet and the Sun.
The findings have been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
“Within just a few days, the heliospheric intensity of trapped radiation decreased, and the cosmic ray intensity went up as you would expect if it exited the heliosphere,” said Bill Webber, professor emeritus of astronomy at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He calls this transition boundary the “heliocliff.”
In the GRL article, the authors state: “It appears that [Voyager 1] has exited the main solar modulation region, revealing [hydrogen] and [helium] spectra characteristic of those to be expected in the local interstellar medium.”
However, Webber notes, scientists are continuing to debate whether Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space or entered a separate, undefined region beyond the solar system.
“It’s outside the normal heliosphere, I would say that,” Webber said. “We’re in a new region. And everything we’re measuring is different and exciting.”
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