The solar wind
the stream of charged particles
billowing away from the Sun
is at its weakest for 50 years

extends billions of kilometres into space.

the far-distant Voyager spacecraft
launched in the 1970s
now bearing down
on the edge of the heliosphere
the great "bubble"

cross over into interstellar space
that region considered
to be "between the stars"

11-year cycle of activity

Calmer wind conditions
would be expected to prevail right now
but the Ulysses data indicates
circumstances unprecedented in recent times
The Sun is a variable star
activity rises and falls
in cycles

The entire Sun is blowing significantly
less hard
since the start of those observations
in the 1960s
at the start of the space age

Energetic rays
More of them will probably now make their way through
move at colossal speeds
The Voyager spacecraft
will move beyond the solar wind's influence

engineers would have to take this into account
when deciding how to "harden" their spacecraft

so this is not a good time to be travelling in space

Launched by the shuttle in 1990
as it circles the star
in a six-year orbit
that also carries it out to Jupiter and back

But the harsh conditions of space
are now slowly taking their toll
on the spacecraft.

Ulysses' main transmitter no longer works
and it is struggling to put enough power
into its heating systems

With the satellite currently moving away from the Sun
it is gradually getting colder
and engineers expect the hydrazine fuel
used in its thrusters
to freeze very soon

Ulysses will no longer
be able to orientate itself
and its antenna
and contact will be lost
with Earth


The entire text was condensed ("poem-ized") from a BBC science article that had both a strange sadness to it as well as an exciting classic sci-fi feel.  In Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses, the main character, finally reaches home after a long troubled voyage.  But not for this Ulysses.  On the other hand, the original Ulysses was written off long before he returned also.  The image was made in Tierazon.  The second one is the original; the first was India Inked using the Straight Chaos setting which gave the transmission beam lines to the image.

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