Hello – is Anybody Listening?

(top to bottom) Voyager 2 Factoids; Where the Voyager twins are now; Two awesome artist renderings of the probes in space; Get those cool his/hers black Ts being modeled HERE; The Voyager 40th anniversary logo T HERE; And the Voyager 2 Neptune black T HERE; Then get the coolest model of the Voyager—all steel, no glue required HERE; Humans certainly are amazing to have figured out how to do this. But I guess once we’ve applied ourselves to a problem, any problem, solutions keep coming. Kind of like what we do with your impossible PIA jobs, eh?

Space travel.  The stuff of Buck Rodgers, Neil Armstrong and Captain Kirk.  As a kid, I was fascinated by space and space travel. In full complete disclosure, I fully believe there is life out THERE!  Somewhere!  I’ll admit, I still struggle with the concept of distance in space, especially when coming across terms like “light years” and “billions of miles”.  Recently I read an article about Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 “still going” and wanted to share some of the cool info.  Talk about a PIA (Pain in the #%$) Jobs! – yikes!  Let’s see.  Design and build a never before done/long lasting spacecraft.  Check.  Make it power itself.  Check.  Put it inside a rocket.  Check.  Launch it into space.  Check.  And then release it, so it travels through space “forever”, transmitting back to earth for the next 50 years or more.  What?  Who does this stuff?  (rocket scientists?).  Any who, one year ago, this week, NASA’s Voyager 2 became only the second spacecraft in history (think Voyager 1 as the other) to reach interstellar space, the region between our suns reach and the stars (wrap your head around that tidbit.  And this week, several new research papers in Nature Astronomy Journal described what scientists observed during and since Voyager 2’s historic crossing.  According to Ed Stone, project scientist for Voyager and a professor of physics at Caltech, “The new findings help paint a picture of the “cosmic shoreline” where the environment created by our sun ends and the vast ocean of interstellar space begins. The Voyager probes are showing us how our sun interacts with the stuff that fills most of the space between stars in the Milky Way galaxy.” Now that’s cool!  Enjoy the info and images – special thanks to Doyle Rice of USA Today and my trusty Wikipedia to fill in the holes. (or should I say empty space 🙂 )

  • Studies say Voyager 2 has left the heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by our sun – at a distance of about 11 billion miles from Earth, well beyond the orbit of Pluto. (Voyager 1 headed into interstellar space in 2012)
  • The heliosphere can be thought of as a cosmic weather front – a distinct boundary where charged particles rushing outward from the sun at supersonic speed meet a cooler, interstellar wind blowing in from supernovae that exploded millions of years ago.
  • “In a historical sense, the old idea that the solar wind will just be gradually whittled away as you go further into interstellar space is simply not true,” said the University of Iowa’s Don Gurnett, corresponding author on one of the studies. “We show with Voyager 2 – and previously with Voyager 1 – that there’s a distinct boundary out there.”
  • Voyager 2 is only the second spacecraft to travel this far out into the solar system. The craft was launched slightly ahead of its twin, Voyager 1, in 1977 and has been traveling through space for the past 42 years.
  • “We certainly didn’t know that a spacecraft could live long enough to leave the bubble and enter interstellar space,” Stone said at a media teleconference to announce the findings. “We had no good quantitative idea of how big this bubble is.”
  • Even though the spacecraft are out of the sun’s bubble, the Voyagers are still technically in our solar system, NASA said. Scientists maintain that the solar system stretches to the outer edge of the Oort Cloud. It will take about 30,000 years for the spacecraft to get that far. (please help me grasp this…)
  • Voyager 2 is a space probe launched by NASA on August 20, 1977, to study the outer planets. Part of the Voyager program, it was launched 16 days before its twin, Voyager 1, on a trajectory that took longer to reach Jupiter and Saturn but enabled further encounters with Uranus and Neptune.[4] It is the only spacecraft to have visited either of these two ice giant planets.
  • Its primary mission ended with the exploration of the Neptunian system on October 2, 1989, after having visited the Uranian system in 1986, the Saturnian system in 1981, and the Jovian system in 1979. Voyager 2 is now in its extended mission to study the outer reaches of the Solar System and has been operating for 42 years, 2 months and 16 days as of November 6, 2019. It remains in contact through the NASA Deep Space Network.[5]
  • At a distance of 122 AU (1.83×1010 km) (about 16:58 light-hours) from the Sun as of November 4, 2019, moving at a velocity of 15.341 km/s (55,230 km/h) relative to the Sun, Voyager 2 is the fourth of five spacecraft to achieve the escape velocity that will allow them to leave the Solar System. The probe left the heliosphere for interstellar space on November 5, 2018, becoming the second artificial object to do so, and has begun to provide the first direct measurements of the density and temperature of the interstellar plasma.
  • Constructed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Voyager 2 included 16 hydrazine thrusters, three-axis stabilization, gyroscopes and celestial referencing instruments (Sun sensor/Canopus Star Tracker) to maintain pointing of the high-gain antenna toward Earth. Collectively these instruments are part of the Attitude and Articulation Control Subsystem (AACS) along with redundant units of most instruments and 8 backup thrusters. The spacecraft also included 11 scientific instruments to study celestial objects as it traveled through space.
  • Built with the intent for eventual interstellar travel, Voyager 2 included a large, 3.7 m (12 ft) parabolic, high-gain antenna to transceive data via the Deep Space Network on the Earth. Communications are conducted over the S-band (about 13 cm wavelength) and X-band (about 3.6 cm wavelength) providing data rates as high as 115.2 kilobits per second at the distance of Jupiter, and then ever-decreasing as the distance increased, because of the inverse-square law. When the spacecraft is unable to communicate with Earth, the Digital Tape Recorder (DTR) can record about 64 megabytes of data for transmission at another time.
  • Voyager 2 is equipped with 3 Multihundred-Watt radioisotope thermoelectric generators (MHW RTG). Each RTG includes 24 pressed plutonium oxide spheres and provided enough heat to generate approximately 157 W of electrical power at launch. Collectively, the RTGs supplied the spacecraft with 470 watts at launch (halving every 87.7 years) and allows operations to continue until at least 2020.

 

 


 

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