“Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind’s historic leap into interstellar space,” said Stone, “The Voyager team needed time to analyse those observations and make sense of them. But we can now answer the question we’ve all been asking: ‘Are we there yet?’ Yes, we are.”

Not everyone is convinced that the boundary has been crossed. “It’s premature to judge,” said Lennard Fisk, a space science professor at the University of Michigan who is concerned about the absence of a change in the magnetic field direction. “Can we wait a little while longer? Maybe this picture will clear up the farther we go.”

Although its instruments will be dead, it will continue to travel through space. In about 40,000 years’ time, both Voyagers will approach stars for the first time. Voyager 1 will be within 1.6 light-years of the star Gliese 445, currently in the constellation Camelopardalis and Voyager 2 will have approach Ross 248, located in the constellation of Andromeda. Scientists believe it is unlikely either star can support life in their systems.

Net metering requires the three utilities to buy excess renewable electricity generated by their customers at retail rates. A federal tax credit that covers 30% of the price of a solar energy system also continues to help make solar attractive. While renewable electricity could come from solar, wind, fuel cells or biogas systems, solar is the most popular option.

Even after it loses contact with Earth, Voyager will carry evidence of what humanity looked like in 1977. It carries a gold-plated copper disc with sounds, images and data from that year which scientists hope intelligent life forms will be able to access.

Voyager 2 trails behind at 9.5bn miles from the sun. It may be another three years before it joins its twin on the other side. Eventually, the Voyagers will run out of nuclear fuel and will have to power down their instruments, perhaps by 2025.

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