Bad science, bad sci-fi, and why Voyager is not leaving the solar system

scifiIf you are one of my close friends, I apologize, because you have heard this rant so many times over the past year that I am probably lucky we’re still acquaintances.

Despite what you might have heard in the news, Voyager is not “leaving the solar system.” It’s leaving the heliosphere, the tiny region of the solar system that is dominated by the solar wind.

To say Voyager is leaving the solar system by leaving the solar wind is like saying someone left the United States by stepping outside the White House. In short, it’s stupid, incorrect, and unscientific. Which explains why so many professional science journalists are saying it.

(Actually, NBC’s Science Editor Alan Boyle is getting it right, God bless ‘im!)

Issues of scale in outer space might be difficult, but they’re not insurmountable, which is why it is so frustrating when science reporters and sci-fi writers stumble over the proportions of planets, solar systems, and the interstellar environment. For Pete’s sake, people, just make a scale graphic:


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