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Rae Paoletta • Mar 03, 2022
The best space pictures from the Voyager 1 and 2 missions
Launched in 1977, NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 missions provided an unprecedented glimpse into the outer solar system — a liminal space once left largely to the imagination. The spacecraft provided views of worlds we’d never seen before, and in some cases, haven’t seen much of since.
The Voyager probes were launched about two weeks apart and had different trajectories, like two tour guides at the same museum. Only Voyager 2 visited the ice giants — Uranus and Neptune — for example.
The Voyagers hold a unique position in the pantheon of space history because they’re still making it; even right now, Voyagers 1 and 2 are the only functioning spacecraft in interstellar space. Both hold a Golden Record that contains sights and sounds of Earth in case alien life were to find one of the spacecraft.
As the Voyager missions voyage on, it’s good to look back at how they captured our solar system before leaving it.
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Voyager Image Gallery
45 years of voyager i and ii.
Launched in 1977, NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft inspired the world with pioneering visits to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Their journey continues 45 years later as both probes explore interstellar space, the region outside the protective heliosphere created by our Sun. Researchers – some younger than the spacecraft – are now using Voyager data to solve mysteries of our solar system and beyond.
This archival photo shows engineers working on vibration acoustics and pyro shock testing of NASA’s Voyager on Nov. 18, 1976.
NASA’s Voyager 1 acquired this image of a volcanic explosion on Io on March 4, 1979, about 11 hours before the spacecraft’s closest approach to the moon of Jupiter.
This updated version of the iconic "Pale Blue Dot" image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft uses modern image-processing software and techniques to revisit the well-known Voyager view while attempting to respect the original data and intent of those who planned the images.
This illustrated graphic was made to mark Voyager 1’s entry into interstellar space in 2012. It puts solar system distances in perspective, with the scale bar in astronomical units and each set distance beyond 1 AU (the average distance between the Sun and Earth) representing 10 times the previous distance.
This graphic highlights some of the Voyager mission’s key accomplishments. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Full image details
This graphic provides some of the mission’s key statistics from 2018, when NASA’s Voyager 2 probe exited the heliosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Full image details
Voyager: 15 incredible images of our solar system captured by the twin probes (gallery)
The twin probes have captured some remarkable images of our cosmic neighborhood.
NASA's twin probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have captured some truly remarkable images of our solar system and are currently roaming through interstellar space.
Despite its name Voyager 2 launched before Voyager 1 , when it lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 aboard a Titan IIIE-Centaur on Aug. 20, 1977. Voyager 1 followed suit about two weeks later on Sept. 5.
While Voyager 1 primarily focused on Jupiter and Saturn , Voyager 2 visited both gas giants and then ventured on to Uranus and Neptune . But the duo didn't stop there. Voyager 1 officially entered interstellar space on Aug. 25, 2012, while Voyager 2 entered on Nov. 5, 2018. The pair continue to journey through the cosmos and have enough power and fuel to keep scientific instruments running until at least 2025, according to NASA .
Here we celebrate the achievements of both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 with some incredible images captured by the pair.
This image was taken when NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft zoomed toward Jupiter in January and February 1979, capturing hundreds of images during its approach, including this close-up of swirling clouds around Jupiter's Great Red Spot .
This image of the Earth and moon are in a single frame. Voyager was the first spacecraft to achieve this and captured the iconic image on Sept. 18, 1977, by Voyager 1 when it was 7.25 million miles from Earth. The moon is at the top of the picture and beyond the Earth as viewed by Voyager.
Color composite by Voyager 2 showing Jupiter's faint ring system. Images captured in July 1979.
A Voyager 1 image of Jupiter's moon Io showing the active plume of the volcano Loki. The heart-shaped feature southeast of Loki consists of fallout deposits from the active plume Pele. The images that make up this mosaic were taken from an average distance of approximately 340,000 miles (490,000 kilometers) from the moon.
Layers of haze covering Saturn's moon Titan are seen in this image taken by Voyager 1 on Nov. 12, 1980, at a range of 13,700 miles (22,000 km). This false-color image shows the details of the haze that covers Titan. The upper level of the thick aerosol above the moon's limb appears orange.
This view of Uranus was recorded by Voyager 2 on Jan. 25, 1986, as the spacecraft left the planet behind and set forth on the cruise to Neptune. Even at this extreme angle, Uranus retains the pale blue-green color seen by ground-based astronomers and recorded by Voyager during the historic encounter.
This Voyager 2 high-resolution color image provides obvious evidence of vertical relief in Neptune's bright cloud streaks. These clouds were observed at a latitude of 29 degrees north near Neptune's east terminator, the "line" on a planet where daylight meets darkness.
Global color mosaic of Triton , taken in 1989 by Voyager 2 during its flyby of the Neptune system. The color was synthesized by combining high-resolution images taken through orange, violet and ultraviolet filters; these images were displayed as red, green and blue images and combined to create this color version.
Saturn and three of its moons, Tethys, Dione and Rhea, seen by a Voyager spacecraft on Aug. 4, 1982, from a distance of 13 million miles (21 million km).
This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed the "Pale Blue Dot," is a part of the first ever 'portrait' of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles (6 billion km) from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic, which is the plane that contains most of the planets of the solar system.
Voyager 1 took photos of Jupiter and two of its satellites (Io, left, and Europa ).
Enhanced color view of Saturn's ring system captured by Voyager 2 on Aug. 17, 1981, at a distance of 5.5 million miles (8.9 million km). The color variations between the rings possibly indicate variations in chemical composition from one part of Saturn's ring system to another.
Close-up of the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa captured by Voyager 2 at a distance of 152,000 miles (246,000 km).
Voyager 2 captured this image of Neptune's rings on Aug. 26, 1989, from a distance of 175,000 miles (280,000 km).
A false-color image of Callisto captured on July 7, 1979, by Voyager 2 at a distance of about 677,000 miles (1.09 million km). Callisto is the second largest moon of Jupiter and is the most heavily cratered of the Galilean satellites.
Daisy Dobrijevic joined Space.com in February 2022 having previously worked for our sister publication All About Space magazine as a staff writer. Before joining us, Daisy completed an editorial internship with the BBC Sky at Night Magazine and worked at the National Space Centre in Leicester, U.K., where she enjoyed communicating space science to the public. In 2021, Daisy completed a PhD in plant physiology and also holds a Master's in Environmental Science, she is currently based in Nottingham, U.K.
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NASA's Voyager probes have been traveling through space for nearly 46 years. Here are 18 groundbreaking photos from their incredible mission.
- Nearly 46 years after their launch, Voyager 1 and 2 will likely soon reach the end of their scientific mission .
- NASA recently lost contact with Voyager 2 after sending it a bad command by mistake.
- Here are 18 pictures the probes took over the course of their forty-plus-year journey.
The Voyager probes are pioneers of science, making it farther into space than any other manufactured object. But now, they face a terminal problem: their power is running out.
The twin probes were originally sent on a four-year mission to tour the solar system, but they exceeded all expectations and are still going nearly 46 years later. That makes them NASA's longest-lived mission.
Scientists are now doing their best to keep the probes going for as long as possible. They recently found a clever hack to extend Voyager 2's life for another three years and plan to do the same with Voyager 1.
But these are old machines and NASA is constantly scrambling to fix mistakes. Last year, Voyager 1 started sending garbled data from the outside of the solar system. NASA ultimately figured out one of its computers had gone dead.
Voyager 2 is now in limbo , as the agency revealed Friday it had lost contact with the probe when someone sent a wrong command. It could be the end of Voyager 2's mission if NASA can't fix the mistake, which the agency probably won't be able to do before October.
As the probes are nearing the end of their scientific mission, here are 18 images from Voyager that changed science.
The Voyager probes were designed to visit Jupiter and Saturn.
The Voyager mission included two probes — Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 — which NASA launched in 1977 within a few months of each other.
NASA took advantage of a rare planet alignment to turbocharge their journeys into space.
NASA originally built the probes to last five years, but they have exceeded that lifespan many times .
As of August 20 and September 5, 2023, Voyager 2 and Voyager 1 will have been traveling for 46 years, respectively.
This is what Voyager 1 saw on its approach to Jupiter.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 reached Jupiter in 1979.
As they flew by the planet, they took about 50,000 pictures of Jupiter. These blew away scientists, as the quality of the pictures was much better than those taken from Earth, according to NASA.
These snaps taught scientists important facts about the planet's atmosphere, magnetic forces, and geology that would have been difficult to decipher otherwise.
The probes discovered two new moons orbiting Jupiter: Thebe and Metis.
They also spotted a thin ring around Jupiter.
The probe captured this picture as it was looking back at the planet backlit by the Sun.
Voyager 1 discovered volcanoes at the surface of Io, one of Jupiter's moons.
Next stop: Saturn.
In 1980 and 1981, the probes reached Saturn . The flyby gave scientists unprecedented insight into the planet's ring structure, atmosphere, and moons.
Voyager snapped Saturn's rings in more detail than ever before.
And showed every secret that Enceladus, Saturn's moon, had to offer.
Saturn, snapped as the probe flew away, was shown in a new light.
By 1986, Voyager 2 had made it to Uranus.
By 1986, Voyager 1 has finished its grand tour of the solar system, and few out towards space. But Voyager 2 kept on its exploring our nearest planets, passing 50,600 miles away from Uranus in January 1986.
Voyager 2 discovered two extra rings around Uranus , revealing the planet had at least 11, not 9.
- The Contents
- The Making of
- Where Are They Now
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Q & A with Ed Stone
Where are they now.
- frequently asked questions
- Q&A with Ed Stone
galleries / images voyager took
Solar system portrait.
This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed 'Pale Blue Dot', is a part of the first ever 'portrait' of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. From Voyager's great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Coincidentally, Earth lies right in the center of one of the scattered light rays resulting from taking the image so close to the sun. This blown-up image of the Earth was taken through three color filters — violet, blue and green — and recombined to produce the color image. The background features in the image are artifacts resulting from the magnification.
Solar System Portrait - 60 Frame Mosaic.
Solar System Portrait - Earth as 'Pale Blue Dot'.
The 116 photos NASA picked to explain our world to aliens
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If any intelligent life in our galaxy intercepts the Voyager spacecraft, if they evolved the sense of vision, and if they can decode the instructions provided, these 116 images are all they will know about our species and our planet, which by then could be long gone:
When Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched into space in 1977, their mission was to explore the outer solar system, and over the following decade, they did so admirably.
With an 8-track tape memory system and onboard computers that are thousands of times weaker than the phone in your pocket, the two spacecraft sent back an immense amount of imagery and information about the four gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
But NASA knew that after the planetary tour was complete, the Voyagers would remain on a trajectory toward interstellar space, having gained enough velocity from Jupiter's gravity to eventually escape the grasp of the sun. Since they will orbit the Milky Way for the foreseeable future, the Voyagers should carry a message from their maker, NASA scientists decided.
The Voyager team tapped famous astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan to compose that message. Sagan's committee chose a copper phonograph LP as their medium, and over the course of six weeks they produced the "Golden Record": a collection of sounds and images that will probably outlast all human artifacts on Earth.
How would aliens know what to do with the Golden Record?
The records are mounted on the outside of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 and protected by an aluminum case. Etched on the cover of that case are symbols explaining how to decode the record. Put yourself in an extraterrestrial's shoes and try to guess what the etchings seek to communicate. Stumped? Hover over or click on the yellow circles for the intended meaning of these interstellar brain teasers:
What else is on the Golden Record?
Any aliens who come across the Golden Record are in for a treat. It contains:
- 116 images encoded in analog form depicting scientific knowledge, human anatomy, human endeavors, and the terrestrial environment. (These images appear in color in the video above, but on the record, all but 20 are black and white.)
- Spoken greetings in more than 50 languages.
- A compilation of sounds from Earth.
- Nearly 90 minutes of music from around the world. Notably missing are the Beatles, who reportedly wanted to contribute "Here Comes the Sun" but couldn't secure permission from their record company. For the video above, I chose to include "Dark Was the Night" by Blind Willie Johnson, a 1927 track Sagan described as "haunting and expressive of a kind of cosmic loneliness."
The committee also made space for a message from the president of the United States:
Where are they now?
Incredibly, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are still communicating with Earth — they aren't expected to lose power until the 2020s. That's how NASA knew that Voyager 1 became the first ever spacecraft to enter interstellar space in 2012: The probe detected high-density plasma characteristic of the space beyond the heliosphere (the bubble of solar wind created by the sun).
Voyager 2 is currently traveling through the outer layers of the heliosphere. It's moving southward relative to Earth's orbit, while Voyager 1 is moving northward. In more than 40,000 years, they will each pass closer to another star than they are to our sun. (Or, more accurately, stars will pass by them).
There are three other spacecraft headed toward interstellar space; two of them, Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, are shown in this somewhat dated illustration:
NASA launched Pioneer 10 and 11 in 1972 and 1973, and has since lost communication with both. They aren't traveling as fast as the Voyagers, but they will eventually enter interstellar space as well.
They too, carry a message for extraterrestrial life, in the form of a 6-by-9-inch gold-anodized aluminum plaque, designed by Sagan and other members of the team that would go on to create the Voyager Golden Record five years later.
Like the Golden Record, the plaque features the pulsar map, uses hydrogen to define the binary units, and depicts humankind. NASA faced a backlash for the nudity of the human figures.
Another interstellar message
The fifth probe that will exit our solar system is New Horizons , the spacecraft that flew by Pluto in 2015. It is headed in a broadly similar direction as Voyager 2, but having launched in 2006, it's many years behind. It may not reach interstellar space for another 30 years.
New Horizons was sent into space without any message like the Golden Record, but it's not too late to add one. A group led by Jon Lomberg , a member of Sagan's Golden Record team, is trying to convince NASA to upload a crowdsourced message to the probe for any intelligent life that might come across it.
The spacecraft's memory system is similar to a flash drive, and it wouldn't be as durable as the copper records on Voyager. "The most conservative estimates are a lifetime of a few decades. Other physicists and engineers believe the message might remain for centuries or even millennia," says the website of the message initiative, adding, more hopefully, "Another unknown is the advanced technology possessed by any ETs who find the spacecraft. They might have ways of reading the faded memory we cannot yet imagine."
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The longest, farthest missions in NASA history, the twin Voyagers launched in 1977 to visit Jupiter and Saturn, and never stopped. Voyager 1 discovered new rings and moons around the two giants, and surprised scientists by spotting volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io. The craft's trajectory then took it up and out of the solar system, and Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to enter interstellar space on Aug. 25, 2012, hurtling into the unknown with a golden greeting for whatever it meets.
What is Voyager 1?
No spacecraft has gone farther than NASA's Voyager 1. Launched in 1977 to fly by Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 1 crossed into interstellar space in August 2012 and continues to collect data.
- Voyager 1 and its sister ship Voyager 2 have been flying longer than any other spacecraft in history.
- Not only are the Voyager missions providing humanity with observations of truly uncharted territory, but they are also helping scientists understand the very nature of energy and radiation in space—key information for protecting future missions and astronauts.
- Voyager 1 was the first spacecraft to cross the heliosphere, the boundary where the influences outside our solar system are stronger than those from our Sun.
- Voyager 1 is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space.
- Voyager 1 discovered a thin ring around Jupiter and two new Jovian moons: Thebe and Metis.
- At Saturn, Voyager 1 found five new moons and a new ring called the G-ring.
Sept. 5, 1977 : Launch
March 5, 1979 : Jupiter flyby
Nov. 12, 1980 : Saturn flyby
Feb. 17, 1998 : Became the most distant human-made object after overtaking NASA's Pioneer 10
Jan. 1, 1990: Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) officially began
Aug. 16, 2006 : 100 astronomical units reached
Aug. 1, 2012: Voyager 1 enters interstellar space
In Depth: Voyager 1
NASA's Voyager 1 was launched after Voyager 2, but because of a faster route, it exited the asteroid belt earlier than its twin, having overtaken Voyager 2 on Dec. 15, 1977.
It began its Jovian imaging mission in April 1978 when it was about 165 million miles (265 million kilometers) from the planet. Images sent back by January 1979 indicated that Jupiter’s atmosphere was more turbulent than during the Pioneer flybys in 1973-1974.
Beginning Jan. 30, 1979, Voyager 1 took a picture every 96 seconds for a span of 100 hours to generate a color time-lapse movie to depict 10 rotations of Jupiter.
On Feb. 10, 1979, the spacecraft crossed into the Jovian moon system and in early March, it discovered a thin ring circling Jupiter (less than 19-miles or 30 kilometers-thick).
Voyager 1’s closest encounter with Jupiter was at 12:05 UT March 5, 1979, at a range of about 174,000 miles (280,000 kilometers), following which it encountered several of Jupiter’s moons, including Amalthea (at a 261,100-mile or 420,200-kilometer range), Io (13,050 miles or 21,000 kilometers), Europa (45,830 miles or 733,760 kilometers), Ganymede (71,280 miles or 114,710 kilometers), and Callisto (78,540 miles or 126,400 kilometers), in that order, returning spectacular photos of their terrains and opening up completely new worlds for planetary scientists.
Among the most interesting findings was on Io, where images showed a bizarre yellow, orange, and brown world with at least eight active volcanoes spewing material into space, making it one of the most (if not the most) geologically active planetary bodies in the solar system. The presence of active volcanoes suggested that the sulfur and oxygen in Jovian space may be a result of the volcanic plumes from Io which are rich in sulfur dioxide.
The spacecraft also discovered two new moons, Thebe and Metis.
Following the Jupiter encounter, Voyager 1 completed an initial course correction April 9, 1979, in preparation for its meeting with Saturn. A second correction on Oct. 10, 1979, ensured that the spacecraft would not hit Saturn’s moon Titan.
Its flyby of the Saturn system in November 1979 was as spectacular as its previous encounter.
Voyager 1 found five new moons, a ring system consisting of thousands of bands, wedge-shaped transient clouds of tiny particles in the B-ring that scientists called “spokes,” a new ring (the G-ring), and “shepherding” satellites on either side of the F-ring -- satellites that keep the rings well-defined.
During its flyby, the spacecraft photographed Saturn’s moons Titan, Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, and Rhea. Based on incoming data, all the moons appeared to be composed largely of water ice.
Perhaps the most interesting target was Titan, which Voyager 1 passed at 05:41 UT Nov. 12, 1979, at a range of about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers).
Images showed a thick atmosphere that completely hid the surface. The spacecraft found that the moon’s atmosphere was composed of 90% nitrogen. Pressure and temperature at the surface was 1.6 atmospheres and minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 180 degrees Celsius), respectively.
Atmospheric data suggested that Titan might be the first body in the solar system, apart from Earth, where liquid might exist on the surface. In addition, the presence of nitrogen, methane, and more complex hydrocarbons indicated that prebiotic chemical reactions might be possible on Titan.
Voyager 1’s closest approach to Saturn was at 23:46 UT Nov. 12, 1980, at a range of about 78,290 miles (126,000 kilometers).
Following the encounter with Saturn, Voyager 1 headed on a trajectory to escape the solar system at a speed of about 3.5 AU (325 million miles or 523 million kilometers) per year, 35 degrees out of the ecliptic plane to the north and in the general direction of the Sun’s motion relative to nearby stars.
Because of the specific requirements for the Titan flyby, the spacecraft was not directed to Uranus and Neptune.
On Feb. 14, 1990, Voyager 1’s cameras were pointed backward and captured about 60 images of the Sun and planets -- the first "portrait" of our solar system as seen from the outside. The images were taken when the spacecraft was about 40 AU from the Sun (3.7 billion miles or 6 billion kilometers).
A mosaic of those images became the “Pale Blue Dot” image made famous by Cornell University professor and Voyager science team member Carl Sagan (1934-1996).
The image has also been called the "Solar System Family Portrait"—even though Mercury and Mars can’t be seen. Mercury was too close to the Sun to be seen, and Mars was on the same side of the Sun as Voyager 1, so only its dark side faced the cameras.
These images were the last of 67,000 images taken by the two Voyager spacecraft. Their cameras were turned off to save power and memory for the interstellar mission.
All the planetary encounters finally were over in 1989 and the missions of Voyager 1 and 2 were declared part of the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), which officially began Jan. 1, 1990.
The goal of the new mission is to extend NASA’s exploration of the solar system beyond the neighborhood of the outer planets to the outer limits of the Sun’s sphere of influence, and possibly beyond.
Specific goals include collecting data on the transition between the heliosphere—the region of space dominated by the Sun’s magnetic field and solar field—and the interstellar medium.
On Feb. 17, 1998, Voyager 1 became the most distant human-made object in existence when, at a distance of 69.4 AU from the Sun, it overtook Pioneer 10.
On Dec. 16, 2004, Voyager scientists announced that Voyager 1 had reported high values for the intensity for the magnetic field at a distance of 94 AU, indicating that it had reached the termination shock and had now entered the heliosheath. The spacecraft finally exited the heliosphere and began measuring the interstellar environment on Aug. 25, 2012, the first spacecraft to do so.
On Sept. 5, 2017, NASA marked the 40th anniversary of Voyager 1’s launch, as it continues to communicate with NASA’s Deep Space Network and to send data back from four still-functioning instruments -- the cosmic ray telescope, the low-energy charged particles experiment, the magnetometer, and the plasma waves experiment.
Each Voyager carries a message, prepared by a team headed by Carl Sagan, in the form of a 12 inch (30-centimeter) diameter gold-plated copper disc for potential extraterrestrials who might find the spacecraft.
Like the plaques on Pioneers 10 and 11, the record has symbols to show the location of Earth relative to several pulsars.
The records also contain instructions to play them using a cartridge and a needle, much like a vinyl record player.
The audio on the disc includes greetings in 55 languages, 35 sounds from life on Earth (such as whale songs, laughter, etc.), 90 minutes of generally Western music including everything from Mozart and Bach to Chuck Berry and Blind Willie Johnson. It also includes 115 images of life on Earth and recorded greetings from then U.S. President Jimmy Carter (1924– ) and then-UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim (1918-2007).
The two Voyagers are now over 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the Sun and far from its warmth. To ensure the vintage robots continue to return the best scientific data possible, mission engineers in 2019 began implementing a new plan to manage them. The plan involves making difficult choices, particularly about instruments and thrusters on the spacecraft.
During the Jupiter leg of its journey, Voyager 1 explored the giant planet, its magnetosphere and moons in greater detail than the Pioneer spacecraft that preceded it. Voyager 1 also used Jupiter as a springboard to Saturn, using the gravity-assist technique.
Voyager 1 succeeded on all counts Jupiter, with the single exception of experiments using its photopolarimeter, which failed to operate.
Jupiter's atmosphere was found to be more active than during the visits of Pioneer 10 and 11, sparking a rethinking of the earlier atmospheric models which could not explain the new features.
The spacecraft imaged the moons Amalthea, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, showing details of their terrain for the first time.
Possibly the most stunning of Voyager 1's discoveries was that Io has extremely active volcanoes, powered by heat generated by the stretching and relaxing the moon endures every 42 hours as its elliptical orbit brings it closer to and then farther from Jupiter. This finding revolutionized scientists' concept of the moons of the outer planets.
The spacecraft also discovered a thin ring around the planet (then making it the second planet known to have a ring), and two new moons: Thebe and Metis.
Voyager 1 was the second spacecraft to visit Saturn. It explored the planet and its rings, moons, and magnetic field in greater detail than was possible for its predecessor, Pioneer 11.
Voyager 1 met all of its goals except for the experiments planned for its photopolarimeter, which failed to operate.
The spacecraft found three new moons: Prometheus and Pandora, the "shepherding" moons that keep the F ring well-defined, and Atlas which similarly shepherds the A ring.
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, was found to have a thick atmosphere which hides its surface from visible-light cameras and telescopes. Spacecraft instruments showed it to be mostly nitrogen, like Earth's atmosphere, but with a surface pressure 1.6 times as high as ours.
The spacecraft also imaged the moons Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, and Rhea; revealed the fine structures of Saturn's complex and beautiful ring system; and added the G ring to the list of known rings.
Just as it used Jupiter's gravity to help it reach Saturn, Voyager 1 used a gravity assist at Saturn to alter its course and increase its speed, giving it a trajectory to take it out of the solar system.
In August 2012, Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft to cross into interstellar space.
However, if we define our solar system as the Sun and everything that primarily orbits the Sun, Voyager 1 will remain within the confines of the solar system until it emerges from the Oort cloud in another 14,000 to 28,000 years.
NASA News: Voyager
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Voyager
National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog: Voyager 1
The Legacy of NASA’s Voyager Mission
Siddiqi, Asif A. Beyond Earth: A Chronicle of Deep Space Exploration, 1958-2016 . NASA History Program Office, 2018.
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