Researchers confirmed Thursday (Sept. 12) that Voyager 1 is officially in interstellar space. The spacecraft, which launched in 1977, became the first ever human-made object to leave our cosmic neighborhood and enter the space between stars. It likely did so on or around Aug. 25, 2012.
The 36-year-old spacecraft's communications technology is lacking by today's standards. A smartphone has thousands of times more memory than Voyager 1 and the space probe's main transmitter radiates just 22 watts, about the same amount of power as a typical ham radio or a refrigerator light bulb, NASA said. But compared to many natural objects probed by radio telescopes, Voyager 1's signal is actually quite bright.
On March 31, 2006, amateur radio operators from AMSAT in Germany tracked and received radio waves from Voyager 1 using the 20-meter (66 ft) dish at Bochum with a long integration technique. Retrieved data was checked and verified against data from the Deep Space Network station at Madrid, Spain.
There is community of dedicated amateurs around the world that build such stations to listen in on spacecraft at the farthest reaches of our Solar System. (Amateur DSN)
Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration