GOING, GOING, GONE!
Voyager 1 is the most distant human-made object in space, and soon it will exit the solar system forever. Voyager 2 will follow its twin soon after. The probes have visited four outer planets and 49 moons, gathering a wealth of images and scientific data.
The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft will soon leave our solar system. After 33 years of exploring our planetary neighborhood, the probes are heading into interstellar space between the stars.
Launched by NASA in 1977, Voyager 1 and 2 have explored the giant outer planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune (see diagram, below). Now almost 17.4 billion kilometers (10.8 billion miles) from Earth, Voyager 1 is in a region called the heliosheath, where the solar wind, or stream of charged particles that flows outward from the sun, runs into interstellar winds.
Voyager 1 will fully enter interstellar space in about four years. Both spacecraft have enough power to run their onboard instruments and transmit data back to Earth until 2025. "Then they'll continue their journey orbiting the center of the galaxy in interstellar space," says Ed Stone, the Voyager project scientist.
MARCH AND JULY 1979: JUPITER
The probes snap more than 33,000 images of the solar system's largest planet and eight of its moons.
AUGUST 20 AND SEPTEMBER 5, 1977: CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA
The Voyagers' launches are timed to meet a rare planetary alignment in order to travel the most distance using the least amount of time and energy. Voyager 1 launches second, but on a shorter and faster trajectory.
NOVEMBER 1980 AND AUGUST 1981: SATURN
Voyager 1 discovers that Saturn's ring-made of pieces of ice and rock--has hundreds of ripples. After passing Saturn, Voyager 1 heads northward of the orbital plane.
JANUARY 1996: URANUS
Voyager 2 becomes the planet's first visitor and discovers 11 of its 27 moons.
AUGUST 1989: NEPTUNE
Voyager 2 remains the only spacecraft to visit the windiest planet in the solar system. The probe also finds five of Neptune's 13 moons.
2011: EDGE OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM
After 33 years and billions of miles traveled. Voyager 1 is preparing to exit an area called the heliosheath and enter interstellar space.
FEBRUARY 17, 1998: FAR OUT
Voyager 1 surpasses an older spacecraft to become the most distant human-made object in space.
SIZE: Each probe weighs nearly a ton and contains 65,000 parts.
FUEL: powered by plutonium, a human-made element
COMMUNICATION: Faint radio signals emitted by the spacecrafts take about 14 hours to reach giant antennas on Earth.
RETURN SERVE: TOPIO 3.0 uses human-like movements to face off against real-life table-tennis players.
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|Title Annotation:||SPACE: SOLAR SYSTEM|
|Date:||Mar 18, 2011|
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