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After its mission, New Horizons will be destined to travel perpetually forever. I wonder though how far it will be when the sun explodes. Will it be far enough away that when this happens, billions of years from now, it will not be destroyed? If this is the case, what will happen to New Horizons? Is it likely to literally just travel forever without ever hitting anything?

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    $\begingroup$ "I wonder though how far it will be when the sun explodes." Pretty far, given the Sun will never explode. It requires a star several times the Sun's mass to produce a supernova. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Thompson Jul 16 '15 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ "Is it likely to literally just travel forever without ever hitting anything?" How small an object are you including in 'anything'? It would be bombarded by sub-atomic particles constantly. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Thompson Jul 16 '15 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ This BBC's Timeline of The Far Future infographic is highly relevant. ;) $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Jul 16 '15 at 12:42
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Absolutely. The death of the Sun will likely swallow an area of about Mars's radius, most likely a bit further. Thus, any spacecraft in the outer solar system or further will survive.

Also, it's likely that any spacecraft orbiting Earth will have a good chance of survival, as the Earth's orbit will be pushed back further. Mars is almost certainly going to survive somewhat.

In addition to all of this, New Horizons, and the Voyagers, etc, are all moving quite fast. Voyager 1 is moving at a rate of 3.6 au/year. The Sun won't explode for billions of years. Using 4 billion as a conservative value for that time, Voyager will be 14.4 billion au away from the sun, or basically the other side of the Milky Way (I show 227,000 light years away).

Bottom line is, the Sun's destruction will have no bearing on the lifetime of any satellite in current solar escape, and probably won't have any affect on anything in the outer solar system. Other events might have an effect, however.

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  • $\begingroup$ Most satellites in earth orbit are technically still in our atmosphere, and will slow down and fall from drag long before the Sun gives up. $\endgroup$ – Oscar Lanzi Jun 16 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ Note, the Sun circles around the galactic centre with a $\approx$ 160million years, and it will die after 4billion years. As the Sun dies, these probes could be anywhere in the whole galaxy. $\endgroup$ – peterh says reinstate Monica Sep 9 at 22:07

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