Science and Exploration

Future Stellar Flybys Of The Voyager And Pioneer Spacecraft

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 9, 2019
Filed under ,
Future Stellar Flybys Of The Voyager And Pioneer Spacecraft
Encounter parameters for the stars that approach within 2 pc of each spacecraft. The point shows the median encounter time and distance (computed over the resampled stellar data); the error bars show the extent of the 5th and 95th percentiles (the error bars are smaller than the points in some cases). The colour indicates the relative velocity at the encounters. White circles have median encounter velocities greater than 50 km/s. The horizontal axis is log time in the future to the encounter (the latest being for Pioneer 10 in 11.1 Myr).

The Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, launched in the 1970s, are heading out of the solar system.

Using the astrometric and radial velocity data from the second Gaia data release, we integrate the trajectories of 7.4 million stars, and the spacecraft, through a Galactic potential in order to identify those stars the spacecraft will pass closest to.

The closest encounters for all spacecraft take place at separations between 0.2 and 0.5 pc within the next million years. The closest encounter will be by Pioneer 10 with the K8 dwarf HIP 117795, at 0.23 pc in 90 kyr at a high relative velocity of 291 km/s.

Coryn A.L. Bailer-Jones (MPIA Heidelberg), Davide Farnocchia (JPL Pasadena)
(Submitted on 7 Dec 2019)

Comments: Extended version of our article published on 3 April 2019 in RNAAS
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Space Physics (
Journal reference: Research Notes of the American Astronomical Society, 3, 59 (2019)
DOI: 10.3847/2515-5172/ab158e
Cite as: arXiv:1912.03503 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1912.03503v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Coryn Bailer-Jones
[v1] Sat, 7 Dec 2019 13:28:00 UTC (75 KB)

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