Voyager 2: Nasa fully back in contact with lost space probe

  • Published 4 August 2023

Artist's impression of the Voyager probe in space

Nasa is back in full contact with its lost Voyager 2 probe months earlier than expected, the space agency said.

In July a wrong command was made to the spacecraft, sent to explore space in 1977, changing its position and severing contact.

A signal was picked up on Tuesday but thanks to an "interstellar shout" - a powerful instruction - its antenna is now back facing Earth.

Nasa had originally pinned hopes on the spacecraft resetting itself in October.

It took 37 hours for mission controllers to figure out if the interstellar command had worked as Voyager 2 is billions of miles away from Earth.

Staff used the "highest-power transmitter" to send a message to the spacecraft and timed it to be sent during "the best conditions" so the antenna lined up with the command, Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd told AFP.

After communications were lost, the probe had been unable to receive commands or send back data to Nasa's Deep Space Network - an array of giant radio antennas across the world.

But the space agency confirmed on 4 August that data had been received from the spacecraft and it was operating normally.

Nasa expects the spacecraft laden with science instruments to remain on its planned trajectory through the universe.

On Monday, the space agency said its huge dish in Australia's capital, Canberra, was trying to detect any stray signals from Voyager 2. This was when the first faint " heartbeat " signal was heard.

The antenna had been bombarding Voyager 2's area with the correct command, in the hope of somehow making contact, Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the Voyager missions, said.

The probe is programmed to reset its position multiple times each year to keep its antenna pointing at Earth. The next reset is due on 15 October, which Nasa had rested its hopes on if all other attempts had failed.

Voyager 2 and its twin Voyager 1 are the only spacecraft ever to operate outside the heliosphere, the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields generated by the Sun. They reached interstellar space in 2018 and 2012 respectively.

The probes were designed to take advantage of a rare alignment of outer planets, which occurs about every 176 years, to explore Jupiter and Saturn.

Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft ever to fly by Neptune and Uranus, while Voyager 1 is now nearly 15 billion miles away from Earth, making it humanity's most distant spacecraft.

Once both spacecraft run out of power - expected sometime after 2025 - they will continue roaming through space.

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September 1, 2009

Salvaging NASA's Planetary Grand Tour: Sending Voyager 2 Where No Probe Had Gone Before--Or Since

By Bruce Lieberman

On March 5, 1979, Voyager 1 arrived at Jupiter, followed by Voyager 2 on July 9. Suddenly, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., was flooded with crystal-clear pictures of Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere and never-before-seen volcanic eruptions on its moon Io.

When the twin spacecraft arrived at Saturn, they matched their previous performances at Jupiter with images of the ringed world's magnificently intricate system and moons, granting Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone and his colleagues all they had hoped for in a torrent of discoveries.

Voyager 2 would go on to explore Uranus, Neptune and their moons. "Science is about discovering new things about nature, and normally if you discover something once a year you're doing pretty well," Stone says." This was just day after day…of seeing something that no one had seen before."

The Voyagers were the flagships a golden era of planetary exploration in the late 1970s and 1980s. For a generation that came of age after NASA's glory days of Apollo and would come to experience the harsh reality of Challenger's loss in 1986, the Voyager missions represented an exciting path for exploration that was out of reach of manned spaceflight. Even Hollywood picked up on the excitement, making one of the Voyager spacecraft a character in a Star Trek film. And, Voyagers 1 and 2 are still flying, speeding out of the solar system at more than 55,000 kilometers per hour. Both are expected to reach interstellar space by about 2014.

When the twin spacecraft were launched, NASA was taking advantage of a rare alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune that occurs once every 175 years to send probes on a "Grand Tour" of the solar system. The alignment allowed the spacecraft to harness the gravity of each planet and swing from one to the next using relatively minimal amounts of fuel. NASA first demonstrated the technique with its Mariner 10 mission to Venus and Mercury from 1973 to 1975.

Voyager was designed as a four-year mission to Jupiter and Saturn, and the spacecraft were built to last just five years. If the prime mission were successful, however, NASA would then decide whether to continue on to Uranus and Neptune, Stone says.

Voyager was actually a scaled-down version of a much larger plan, first proposed in the mid-1960s, to send four identical spacecraft on an even longer Grand Tour of the outer planets, from Jupiter to Pluto. Two of the Thermoelectric Outer Planets Spacecraft, or TOPS, were to be launched in 1977, with two more following in 1979.

Although NASA submitted a 1973 budget request for this extended Grand Tour in September 1971, then-NASA Administrator James Fletcher learned in December that President Nixon would not support funding for both the space shuttle and the TOPS's Grand Tour. Before 1971 came to a close, Fletcher had agreed to cancel TOPS and replace it with a less expensive pair of spacecraft that would fly only to Jupiter and Saturn.

The Grand Tour was resurrected as Mariner-Jupiter-Saturn 1977, or MJS '77. In March 1977, just months before the launch of both spacecraft, the mission was renamed Voyager. Whereas the Voyager team had hoped for an extended mission to Uranus and Neptune, that was not part of the original flight plan. "Even a four-year journey was considered fairly risky, so rather than committing to a 12-year trip to Neptune, which may not have worked, NASA prudently decided: 'Let's go for a four-year journey to [ Jupiter and] Saturn , and then step-wise extend it,'" Stone says.

Voyager 1 completed its prime mission in November 1980 after a flyby of Saturn's moon Titan and behind the planet's rings. The encounter bent the spacecraft's trajectory northward out of the solar system's ecliptic plane and on a course toward interstellar space, forgoing the possibility for continuing on to other outer planets.

If Voyager 1 had failed to fulfill its objectives at Saturn, NASA could have redirected Voyager 2 to complete Voyager 1's mission. Voyager 2 had been launched two weeks before Voyager 1, but was on a longer trajectory designed to take it past Saturn about nine months after Voyager 1 and then on to Uranus and Neptune if Voyager 1 had completed its objectives.

The Voyagers—built on the successes of the Pioneer spacecraft before them and setting the stage for Galileo, Cassini and other interplanetary robotic probes—had a paltry amount of computing power by today's standards. Each spacecraft had three computers with about 8,000 words of memory each, Stone says. That meant the Voyager team had to frequently upload new programs, particularly during encounters when scientists wanted to point cameras at various targets. "The mission was designed to be reprogrammed," Stone says. "What we hadn't anticipated before we launched, because we did one planet at a time, was the reprogramming after Saturn."

On its last planetary encounter, with Neptune on August 25, 1989, Voyager 2 arrived at a spot in space within 100 kilometers of its intended target—after traveling more than seven billion kilometers. The accuracy was equivalent to sinking a golf ball from 3,630 kilometers away. The timing was within a few seconds of what was planned—a critical achievement because the spacecraft's camera and other instruments were programmed to begin work at a specified time, Stone says.

Taking images of the outermost planets required some finesse from the team's programmers. Sunlight was four times dimmer at Uranus and nine times dimmer at Neptune than it was at Saturn; Voyager 2 needed to be reprogrammed so its camera would take longer exposures. But that also meant the probe had to be set to rotate slightly as it flew by what it was photographing. The adjustments allowed the cameras to capture images in dimmer sunlight, but prevent smeared images during long exposures. "We really had to know exactly when and where we had to look, because that's when the maneuver had to be done," Stone says. "It was all timed very precisely. We had to adopt new techniques as we went farther out into the solar system, for these time exposures."

Voyager 2's Grand Tour of the outer solar system revealed a surprising cosmic neighborhood, where moons thought to be frozen and dead were churning with geologic activity, hiding potential subsurface oceans and possibly harboring life. The tour also amazed scientists with the discovery of a tilted magnetic field at Uranus , and, on its flyby of Neptune, with observations of giant Jupiter-like storms on what scientists had thought was a quiescent planet as well as geysers of nitrogen gas and dust on its frozen moon, Triton..

The accumulation of unexpected discoveries humbled the Voyager team, Stone says. "We had a very 'terra-centric' viewpoint before Voyager," he notes. "Our experience with Earth became our benchmark and our expectation, and what Voyager showed time after time was that was too limited a view. We really didn't understand the system, because we thought Earth was sort of typical—and it is not."

Today, the Voyagers are headed into the void. With their cameras shut down and using only essential instruments to ration power from their ever-weakening plutonium batteries, they have reached the solar system's outer boundary , a region called the heliosheath , where solar winds collide with the interstellar medium. Voyager 1, having arced north out of the ecliptic plane first, is farther along—nearly 16.5 billion kilometers from Earth as of July 31. Voyager 2, which left the solar system heading south, is more than 12.8 billion kilometers from home.

A team of 10 full- and part-time flight engineers is in daily contact, although round-trip communication at the speed of light takes about 30 hours for Voyager 1 and 24 hours for Voyager 2. Both spacecraft have enough electrical power and attitude control propellant to continue operating until about 2025. Through Voyager 2's Neptune encounter, the missions cost $865 million. NASA now spends about $5 million annually to maintain both spacecraft, says Ed Massey, Voyager project manager since 1998.

Scientists estimate that in about 40,000 years, each spacecraft will be in the neighborhood of other stars and about two light-years from the sun. Already, their distance gives these probes a unique vantage point—a bird's-eye view of the solar system. And for its last optical hurrah, Voyager 1's camera took one final image from about 6.5 billion kilometers out. The mosaic of 60 frames, snapped on February 14, 1990, captured the sun and six planets. The "Family Portrait," as it became known, showed Earth as a " pale blue dot " floating in a beam of sunlight.

The astronomer Carl Sagan, who had lobbied NASA for years to take the photo, wrote a poetic essay inspired by the image: " Look again at that dot," Sagan wrote. "That's here. That's home. That's us…the only home we've ever known." Onboard the spacecraft are golden records , which contain a trove of information about life on Earth, including images, encyclopedia chapters on human anatomy, and audio recordings of greetings in numerous languages. Championed by Sagan, the time capsule may someday be encountered by alien life.

Massey chuckles when he recalls how he responds to people worried by the prospect of the Voyagers finding ET. "A few of them ask, aren't we telling them where we are? Aren't they going to use that information to attack us?" he says. "My answer is, 'They already know where we are from the I Love Lucy broadcasts.'"

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories .

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Doug Cornelius

Aug. 25, 1989: Voyager 2, Meet Neptune

Voyager 2 and Neptune

1989: Voyager 2 makes its closest encounter with Neptune, passing just 3,000 miles above the cloud tops of the most distant planet in our solar system.

The Voyager 2 space probe has been our most productive unmanned space voyage. It visited all four of the outer planets and their systems of moons and rings, including the first visits to previously unexplored Uranus and Neptune.

What did the space probe discover about Neptune?

Originally it was thought that Neptune was too cold to support atmospheric disturbances, but Voyager 2 discovered large-scale storms, most notably the Great Dark Spot . It turned out to have a much shorter duration than Jupiter's persistent Great Red Spot. Neptune not only has storms, it happens to have the fastest winds in the solar system .

The space probe was plotted to perform a close encounter with Triton, the larger of Neptune's originally known moons. Along the way, Voyager 2 found six new moons (.pdf) orbiting the planet.

Voyager 2 found four rings and evidence for ring arcs, or incomplete rings, above Neptune. That means all four of the gas giants in our solar system have rings. Neptune's, however, are very meager compared to the magnificent rings around Saturn.

In the late 19th century, astronomers thought that an unseen Planet X was influencing the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. The observed positions of the two planets and their calculated positions differed. Among those astronomers convinced of the existence of Planet X was Clyde Tombaugh. In 1930 while scanning areas of the sky for Planet X, he found Pluto.

When Voyager 2 flew by Neptune, it took very precise measurements of Neptune's mass and found it to be about 0.5 percent less massive than previous estimates. When the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were recalculated using the more accurate mass figure, it became clear that the imprecise number for Neptune -- and not the gravity of an unseen planet -- had caused the observed orbital discrepancies.

After the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from planetary status in 2006, Voyager 2's 1989 Neptune flyby became the point when every planet in our solar system had been visited by a space probe.

(All you Pluto-is-a-planet advocates can still argue for reinstatement, but you will have to bring a few more celestial objects into the planet category along with Pluto.)

The twin Voyager space probes were launched in 1977 . Voyager 2 was actually launched first, on Aug. 20. Voyager 1 left two weeks later on Sept. 5. ( Voyager 6 was never launched, much to the chagrin of Star Trek fans .) Voyager 1's trajectory was a faster path, getting it to Jupiter in March 1979. Voyager 2 arrived about four months later in July 1979. Both then sped on to Saturn.

Neptune was Voyager 2's final planetary destination after passing Jupiter (closest approach July 9, 1979), Saturn (closest approach Aug. 26, 1981) and Uranus (closest approach Jan. 24, 1986).

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After its encounter with Neptune, the spacecraft was rechristened the Voyager Interstellar Mission by NASA to take measurements of the interplanetary magnetic field, plasma and charged-particle environment. But mostly it's searching for the heliopause , the distance at which the solar wind becomes subsumed by the more general interstellar wind. Voyager 2 is headed out of the solar system, diving below the ecliptic plane at an angle of about 48 degrees and a rate of about 300 million miles a year.

We may be able to communicate with Voyager 2 for another 10 years, when its radioactive power sources are predicted to become too weak to supply electricity to run the craft's critical systems. Then it will be out of our solar system and out of touch, racing to parts unknown and untold.

Doug Cornelius is a contributor to Wired.com's GeekDad .

Source: Various

Image: Voyager 2 and Neptune/NASA composite

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25 Years After Neptune: Reflections on Voyager

Members of the Voyager science team pore over fresh images of Neptune's moon Triton as data from Voyager 2 stream into JPL in August 1989. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

August 25, 1989: Neptune is in view. It is the middle of the night and everything is happening fast at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Voyager team members have had little or no sleep. Vice President Dan Quayle is on the scene and Chuck Berry, of "Johnny B. Goode" fame, is prepping for an outdoor party. This will be "the last picture show" of the grand tour of the solar system by NASA's Voyager mission.

Fast forward to August 25, 2014: New Horizons, the first mission sent to explore dwarf planet Pluto and other icy objects within the Kuiper Belt, is less than one year away from its arrival. And today, New Horizons will cross Neptune's orbit -- the very day that Voyager 2 flew past Neptune 25 years ago.

In celebration of this anniversary, scientists from both missions reflected on Voyager 2's Neptune encounter.

The Encounter - Coming in Close

The Voyager team remembers how extraordinary it was to visit Neptune.

"We had been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time with the right team, and this was the first and only opportunity we would have for a long time for an up-close and personal view with Neptune and the outer parts of our solar system," said Ralph McNutt, a member of the New Horizons science team who was a plasma data team member on Voyager 2.

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, now based at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, was a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, at the time of the encounter.

Television cameras and members

"As much as anything, just seeing this world unfold from the point of light it had been to become a real place was just enthralling," Stern said.

The Exhilaration at JPL

JPL, which manages the Voyager mission, was an exciting place to be in 1989.

Tom Spilker, who was a member of the Voyager 2 radio science team and who has since moved on from JPL, recalls: "I got this overwhelming feeling inside, as if I was standing in the bow of Captain Cook's expedition into the Gulf of Alaska for the very first time. We were going to places where no one had ever gone before -- we were explorers."

Stern describes JPL as the place where "all the action was" in August of 1989.

"I do remember Carl Sagan calling me at the Goddard Space Flight Center, while I was making collaborative measurements of Neptune's moon Triton with the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite to say, 'Hey, you're not in the thick of it, but let me tell you what the press doesn't know yet.' He did this so I would feel like an insider," Stern said.

Discoveries

As the spacecraft delivered images of Neptune, scientists uncovered some unexpected findings.

"The Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune was just another example of the surprises we had time after time as Voyager was flying by each of the outer planets," said Ed Stone, project scientist for Voyager at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The "Great Dark Spot" on Neptune was the first big surprise.

"This dark spot is very similar to the Great Red Spot on our solar system's largest planet, Jupiter, which is a very large storm," Stone said. Because Neptune is six times farther from the sun than Jupiter, it receives a fraction of the energy that Jupiter does -- this dark spot was a complete surprise.

Voyager scientists were also amazed to see that Triton, a moon of Neptune, has active geysers.

"The Triton flyby was my favorite moment partly because it was a bookend. The journey really started with the discovery of volcanoes on Io with Voyager 1, 10 years earlier -- the first bookend. We finished the planetary part of the mission with another bookend, the flyby of Triton, where we discovered a much colder, smaller world that was also geologically active," Stone said.

In the spirit of the Voyager 2 missions to Uranus and Neptune, New Horizons is going where no spacecraft has gone before.

"New Horizons will certainly provide us with new and exciting discoveries, just as Voyager did with its planetary flybys," said Suzanne Dodd of JPL, project manager for Voyager.

Stern summed up the two missions nicely: "The Voyager and New Horizons missions have very important similarities. They are both historic missions of exploration to the very frontier of human knowledge: Voyager with the middle zone of the solar system and the giant planets, and New Horizons with the Kuiper Belt and Pluto. Both excite the public about not only the field of planetary science, but also about exploration and some of the things that our nation and NASA do that really do go down in the history books."

The television studio at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched 16 days apart in 1977. The Voyager spacecraft were built and continue to be operated by JPL. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The Voyager missions are a part of NASA's Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

For more information about Voyager, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/voyager

Http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov.

New Horizons was designed, built and is operated by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. New Horizons, which launched in 2006, is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program of medium-class spacecraft exploration projects.

For more information about New Horizons, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

Http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/, related terms, explore more.

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25 Years After Neptune: Reflections on Voyager

voyager 2 going to neptune

Members of the Voyager team reflect on the mission's Neptune encounter, 25 years later.

August 25, 1989: Neptune is in view. It is the middle of the night and everything is happening fast at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Voyager team members have had little or no sleep. Vice President Dan Quayle is on the scene and Chuck Berry, of "Johnny B. Goode" fame, is prepping for an outdoor party. This will be "the last picture show" of the grand tour of the solar system by NASA's Voyager mission.

Fast forward to August 25, 2014: New Horizons, the first mission sent to explore dwarf planet Pluto and other icy objects within the Kuiper Belt, is less than one year away from its arrival. And today, New Horizons will cross Neptune's orbit -- the very day that Voyager 2 flew past Neptune 25 years ago.

In celebration of this anniversary, scientists from both missions reflected on Voyager 2's Neptune encounter.

The Encounter -- Coming in Close

The Voyager team remembers how extraordinary it was to visit Neptune.

"We had been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time with the right team, and this was the first and only opportunity we would have for a long time for an up-close and personal view with Neptune and the outer parts of our solar system," said Ralph McNutt, a member of the New Horizons science team who was a plasma data team member on Voyager 2.

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, now based at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, was a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, at the time of the encounter.

"As much as anything, just seeing this world unfold from the point of light it had been to become a real place was just enthralling," Stern said.

The Exhilaration at JPL

JPL, which manages the Voyager mission, was an exciting place to be in 1989.

Tom Spilker, who was a member of the Voyager 2 radio science team and who has since moved on from JPL, recalls: "I got this overwhelming feeling inside, as if I was standing in the bow of Captain Cook's expedition into the Gulf of Alaska for the very first time. We were going to places where no one had ever gone before -- we were explorers."

Stern describes JPL as the place where "all the action was" in August of 1989.

"I do remember Carl Sagan calling me at the Goddard Space Flight Center, while I was making collaborative measurements of Neptune's moon Triton with the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite to say, 'Hey, you're not in the thick of it, but let me tell you what the press doesn't know yet.' He did this so I would feel like an insider," Stern said.

Discoveries

As the spacecraft delivered images of Neptune, scientists uncovered some unexpected findings.

"The Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune was just another example of the surprises we had time after time as Voyager was flying by each of the outer planets," said Ed Stone, project scientist for Voyager at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The "Great Dark Spot" on Neptune was the first big surprise.

"This dark spot is very similar to the Great Red Spot on our solar system's largest planet, Jupiter, which is a very large storm," Stone said. Because Neptune is six times farther from the sun than Jupiter, it receives a fraction of the energy that Jupiter does -- this dark spot was a complete surprise.

Voyager scientists were also amazed to see that Triton, a moon of Neptune, has active geysers.

"The Triton flyby was my favorite moment partly because it was a bookend. The journey really started with the discovery of volcanoes on Io with Voyager 1, 10 years earlier -- the first bookend. We finished the planetary part of the mission with another bookend, the flyby of Triton, where we discovered a much colder, smaller world that was also geologically active," Stone said.

In the spirit of the Voyager 2 missions to Uranus and Neptune, New Horizons is going where no spacecraft has gone before.

"New Horizons will certainly provide us with new and exciting discoveries, just as Voyager did with its planetary flybys," said Suzanne Dodd of JPL, project manager for Voyager.

Stern summed up the two missions nicely: "The Voyager and New Horizons missions have very important similarities. They are both historic missions of exploration to the very frontier of human knowledge: Voyager with the middle zone of the solar system and the giant planets, and New Horizons with the Kuiper Belt and Pluto. Both excite the public about not only the field of planetary science, but also about exploration and some of the things that our nation and NASA do that really do go down in the history books."

Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched 16 days apart in 1977. The Voyager spacecraft were built and continue to be operated by JPL. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The Voyager missions are a part of NASA's Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

For more information about Voyager, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/voyager

http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov

New Horizons was designed, built and is operated by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. New Horizons, which launched in 2006, is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program of medium-class spacecraft exploration projects.

For more information about New Horizons, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/

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Written by Autumn Burdick

Elizabeth Landau/Preston Dyches

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Voyager 2: An iconic spacecraft that's still exploring 45 years on

The interstellar vagabond continues to explore the cosmos along with its twin, Voyager 1.

Voyager spacecraft against a backdrop of stars as it travels through space.

Voyager 2 as the backup

Jupiter and saturn flyby, uranus and neptune flyby, voyager 2's interstellar adventure, voyager 2's legacy, additional information.

Voyager 2, was the first of two twin probes NASA sent to investigate the outer planets of our solar system. 

The probe was launched aboard a Titan IIIE-Centaur from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 (previously Launch Complex 41) on Aug. 20, 1977, its twin spacecraft Voyager 1 was launched about two weeks later on Sept. 5. NASA planned for the Voyager spacecraft to take advantage of an alignment of the outer planets that takes place only every 176 years. The alignment would allow both probes to swing from one planet to the next, with a gravity boost to help them along the way.

While Voyager 1 focused on Jupiter and Saturn , Voyager 2 visited both those planets and also ventured to Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2's mission to those last two planets would be humanity's only visit in the 20th century.

Related: Celebrate 45 years of Voyager with these amazing images of our solar system (gallery)

Voyager 2 is now traveling through interstellar space. As of early November 2018, NASA announced that Voyager 2 had crossed the outer edge of our solar system ( Voyager 1 crossed the boundary into interstellar space in 2012. ) Voyager 2 is now approximately 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) away from Earth and counting!  

Although there was not enough money in Voyager 2's budget to guarantee it would still work when flying past Uranus and Neptune, its trajectory was designed to go past those planets anyway. If the spacecraft were still working after Saturn, NASA could try to take pictures of the other planets.

Voyager 2 was ready as a backup for Voyager 1. If Voyager 1 failed when taking pictures of Jupiter and Saturn, NASA was prepared to alter Voyager 2's path to follow Voyager 1's trajectory. It would cut off the Uranus and Neptune option, but still, preserve the possibility of capturing images.

The backup plan was never executed, though, because Voyager 1 went on to make many discoveries at Jupiter and Saturn, working well enough for NASA to carry out its original plans for Voyager 2.

Voyager 2 reached Jupiter in 1979, two years after launching from Cape Canaveral. Since Voyager 1 had just gone through the system four months earlier, Voyager 2's arrival allowed NASA to take valuable comparison shots of Jupiter and its moons. It captured changes in the Great Red Spot and also resolved some of the moon's surfaces in greater detail.

Voyager 2 took pictures of many of Jupiter's satellites. Among its most spectacular findings were pictures from the icy moon Europa . Voyager 2 snapped detailed photos of the icy moon's cracks from 128,000 miles (205,996 km) away and revealed no change in elevation anywhere on the moon's surface.

Proving that moons are abundant around the outer planets, Voyager 2 happened to image Adrastea, a small moon of Jupiter, only months after Voyager 1 found two other Jupiter moons, Thebe and Metis. Adrastea is exceptionally small, only about 19 miles (30.5 kilometers) in diameter at the smallest estimate.

Next in line was Saturn. Voyager 2  became the third spacecraft to visit Saturn when it arrived at its closest point to the ringed planet on Aug. 26, 1981, and took hundreds of pictures of the planet, its moons and its rings . Suspecting that Saturn might be circled by many ringlets, scientists conducted an experiment. They watched the star Delta Scorpii for nearly two and a half hours as it passed through the plane of the rings. As expected, the star's flickering light revealed ringlets as small as 330 feet (100 meters) in diameter. 

Voyager 2's made its closest approach to Uranus on Jan. 24, 1986, becoming the first spacecraft to visit the ice giant. The probe made several observations of the planet, noting that the south pole was facing the sun and that its atmosphere is about 85% hydrogen and 15% helium. 

Additionally, Voyager 2 discovered rings around Uranus, 10 new moons and a magnetic field that, oddly, was 55 degrees off the planet's axis. Astronomers are still puzzling over Uranus' orientation today.

Voyager 2's pictures of the moon Miranda revealed it to be perhaps the strangest moon in the solar system. Its jumbled-up surface appears as though it was pushed together and broken apart several times.

The spacecraft then made it to Neptune , reaching the closest point on Aug. 25, 1989. It skimmed about 3,000 miles from the top of the planet's atmosphere and spotted five new moons as well as four rings around the planet. Remarkably, Voyager 2 is currently the only human-made object to have flown by the intriguing ice giant, according to NASA .

On November 5, 2018, Voyager 2 crossed the heliopause — the boundary between the heliosphere and interstellar space. At this stage, the probe was 119 astronomical units from the sun. (One AU is the average Earth-sun distance, which is about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.) Voyager 1 made the crossing at nearly the same distance, 121.6 AU.

According to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) , Voyager 2 has enough fuel to keep its instruments running until at least 2025. By then, the spacecraft will be approximately 11.4 billion miles (18.4 billion kilometers) away from the sun. 

But Voyager 2 is destined to roam the Milky Way long after its instruments have stopped working.

In about 40,000 years Voyager 2 will pass 1.7 light-years (9.7 trillion miles) from the star Ross 248, according to NASA JPL. The cosmic vagabond will continue its journey through interstellar space and pass 4.3 light-years, (25 trillion miles) from Sirius in about 296,000 years. 

Voyager 2's observations paved the way for later missions. The Cassini spacecraft, which was at Saturn between 2004 and 2017, tracked down evidence of liquid water at the planet's icy moons several decades after the Voyagers initially revealed the possible presence of water. Cassini also mapped the moon, Titan , after the Voyagers took pictures of its thick atmosphere.

Voyager 2's images of Uranus and Neptune also serve as a baseline for current observations of those giant planets. In 2014, astronomers were surprised to see giant storms on Uranus — a big change from when Voyager 2 flew by the planet in 1986. 

To see where Voyager 2 is now you can check out the mission status with resources from NASA . Learn more about the iconic spacecraft with the National Air and Space Museum .  

Bibliography

NASA. In depth: Voyager 2. NASA. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from www.solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/voyager-2/in-depth/

NASA. Voyager - mission status. NASA. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from www.voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/status/

NASA. Voyager - the interstellar mission. NASA. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from www. voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/interstellar-mission

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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, " Why Am I Taller ?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace

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News | August 22, 2019

30 years ago: voyager 2's historic neptune flyby.

Neptune

Thirty years ago, on Aug. 25, 1989, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made a close flyby of Neptune, giving humanity its first close-up of our solar system's eighth planet. Marking the end of the Voyager mission's Grand Tour of the solar system's four giant planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - that first was also a last: No other spacecraft has visited Neptune since.

"The Voyager planetary program really was an opportunity to show the public what science is all about," said Ed Stone, a professor of physics at Caltech and Voyager's project scientist since 1975. "Every day we learned something new."

Wrapped in teal- and cobalt-colored bands of clouds, the planet that Voyager 2 revealed looked like a blue-hued sibling to Jupiter and Saturn, the blue indicating the presence of methane. A massive, slate-colored storm was dubbed the "Great Dark Spot," similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Six new moons and four rings were discovered.

Rings of Neptune

During the encounter, the engineering team carefully changed the probe's direction and speed so that it could do a close flyby of the planet's largest moon, Triton. The flyby showed evidence of geologically young surfaces and active geysers spewing material skyward. This indicated that Triton was not simply a solid ball of ice, even though it had the lowest surface temperature of any natural body observed by Voyager: minus 391 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 235 degrees Celsius).

The conclusion of the Neptune flyby marked the beginning of the Voyager Interstellar Mission, which continues today, 42 years after launch. Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1 (which had also flown by Jupiter and Saturn), continue to send back dispatches from the outer reaches of our solar system. At the time of the Neptune encounter, Voyager 2 was about 2.9 billion miles (4.7 billion kilometers) from Earth; today it is 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from us. The faster-moving Voyager 1 is 13 billion miles (21 billion kilometers) from Earth.   

Getting There

By the time Voyager 2 reached Neptune, the Voyager mission team had completed five planetary encounters. But the big blue planet still posed unique challenges.

About 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth is, the icy giant receives only about 0.001 times the amount of sunlight that Earth does. In such low light, Voyager 2's camera required longer exposures to get quality images. But because the spacecraft would reach a maximum speed of about 60,000 mph (90,000 kph) relative to Earth, a long exposure time would make the image blurry. (Imagine trying to take a picture of a roadside sign from the window of a speeding car.)

So the team programmed Voyager 2's thrusters to fire gently during the close approach, rotating the spacecraft to keep the camera focused on its target without interrupting the spacecraft's overall speed and direction.

The probe's great distance also meant that by the time radio signals from Voyager 2 reached Earth, they were weaker than those of other flybys. But the spacecraft had the advantage of time: The Voyagers communicate with Earth via the Deep Space Network, or DSN, which utilizes radio antennas at sites in Madrid, Spain; Canberra, Australia; and Goldstone, California. During Voyager 2's Uranus encounter in 1986, the three largest DSN antennas were 64-meters (210 feet) wide. To assist with the Neptune encounter, the DSN expanded the dishes to 70 meters (230 feet). They also included nearby non-DSN antennas to collect data, including another 64-meter (210 feet) dish in Parkes, Australia, and multiple 25-meter (82 feet) antennas at the Very Large Array in New Mexico.

The effort ensured that engineers could hear Voyager loud and clear. It also increased how much data could be sent back to Earth in a given period, enabling the spacecraft to send back more pictures from the flyby. 

Being There

In the week leading up to that August 1989 close encounter, the atmosphere was electric at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which manages the Voyager mission. As images taken by Voyager 2 during its Neptune approach made the four-hour journey to Earth, Voyager team members would crowd around computer monitors around the Lab to see.

"One of the things that made the Voyager planetary encounters different from missions today is that there was no internet that would have allowed the whole team and the whole world to see the pictures at the same time," Stone said. "The images were available in real time at a limited number of locations."

But the team was committed to giving the public updates as quickly as possible, so from Aug. 21 to Aug. 29, they would share their discoveries with the world during daily press conferences. On Aug. 24, a program called "Voyager All Night" broadcast regular updates from the probe's closest encounter with the planet, which took place at 4 a.m. GMT (9 p.m. in California on Aug. 24).

The next morning, Vice President Dan Quayle visited the Lab to commend the Voyager team. That night, Chuck Berry, whose song "Johnny B. Goode" was included on the Golden Record that flew with both Voyagers, played at JPL's celebration of the feat.

Chuck Berry (left) and Carl Sagan (right)

Of course, the Voyagers' achievements extend far beyond that historic week three decades ago. Both probes have now entered interstellar space after exiting the heliosphere - the protective bubble around the planets created by a high-speed flow of particles and magnetic fields spewed outward by our Sun.

They are reporting back to Earth on the "weather" and conditions from this region filled with the debris from stars that exploded elsewhere in our galaxy. They have taken humanity's first tenuous step into the cosmic ocean where no other operating probes have flown.

Voyager data also complement other missions, including NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer ( IBEX ), which is remotely sensing that boundary where particles from our Sun collide with material from the rest of the galaxy. And NASA is preparing the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe ( IMAP ), due to launch in 2024, to capitalize on Voyager observations.

The Voyagers send their findings back to DSN antennas with 13-watt transmitters - about enough power to run a refrigerator light bulb.

"Every day they travel somewhere that human probes have never been before," said Stone. "Forty-two years after launch, and they're still exploring."

For more information about the Voyager mission visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/voyager

https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov

For more images of Neptune taken by Voyager 2 visit:

https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/galleries/images-voyager-took/neptune/

News Media Contact

Calla Cofield Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 626-808-2469 [email protected]

News Release: 2019-169

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This picture of Neptune was produced from the last whole planet images taken through the green and orange filters on the Voyager 2 narrow angle camera. The images were taken at a range of 4.4 million miles from the planet, 4 days and 20 hours before closest approach. The picture shows the Great Dark Spot and its companion bright smudge; on the west limb the fast moving bright feature called Scooter and the little dark spot are visible. These clouds were seen to persist for as long as Voyager’s cameras could resolve them. North of these, a bright cloud band similar to the south polar streak may be seen.

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NASA hopes to get the Voyager spacecraft to their 50th anniversary with clever engineering and difficult choices

  • NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 are the only human-made objects to reach interstellar space.
  • The two probes launched in 1977 and may soon lose communication with Earth.
  • NASA hopes to stay in contact with the probes at least until their 50th anniversary in 2027.

Insider Today

In 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 and 2 for what were meant to be four-year missions. For over 46 years, the pair have been delivering spectacular science far beyond what their first teams of researchers could have hoped.

From close-up views of Jupiter to a stunning look a Saturn's rings , the Voyager probes have helped shape our understanding of the solar system. Voyager 2 is still the only spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune . They've traveled farther from Earth than any other human-made object.

Solar wind streaming out from the sun and interstellar wind flowing back toward it creates a bubble known as the heliosphere. In 2012, Voyager 1 ventured beyond the heliosphere into interstellar space . Voyager 2 followed in 2018.

Both probes are slowly draining power and will soon lose contact with Earth.

But NASA is coming up with unique solutions to keep communicating with the two Voyagers.

"That's what's most important is keeping these spacecraft operating as long as possible," Suzanne Dodd , NASA's project manager for Voyager, told Business Insider.

Decades of data

Early in their travels, the two spacecraft parted ways. Voyager 1 is now 15 billion miles from Earth, and Voyager 2 is 12 billion.

As the probes journey farther from our planet, their data becomes more and more valuable. The Voyagers are picking up information on charged particles in interstellar space, including their energy levels, their abundance, and the direction of their magnetic fields.

"They're out of the effects of charged particles from our sun and truly measuring data in interstellar space and measuring how that data changes as they travel further away from us," Dodd said.

She compared it to seeing the difference between waves breaking on the shore and smoothing out deeper in the ocean.

"You would never know that unless you got further out of the ocean, how those waves change," she said.

It would take another 50 years for another vehicle to reach interstellar space, Dodd said. That's why the Voyagers are so valuable.

"They're doing very unique science," she said.

NASA has been turning instruments off to conserve power

The nuclear-powered Voyagers use radioisotope thermoelectric generators that turn heat from decaying plutonium-238 into energy. Originally, the generators provided about 450 watts of power, Dodd said.

Each year, as the plutonium decays, the generators produce about 4 watts less.

"They're down to about 220 watts of power available," Dodd said.

Operating the probes' transmitters requires about 200 watts. Their instruments can use as much as 6 watts each.

Voyager 1 has four instruments running, and Voyager 2 has five.

To conserve power, engineers have shut off heaters and powered down other systems.

"We've done a lot of clever engineering things to be able to keep these instruments on as long as possible, knowing that we have a limited power supply," Dodd said.

"Something could fail that would be catastrophic kind of at any time," she added.

There have been a few near-misses, like when both probes almost failed at launch and when NASA lost communication with Voyager 2 for a few weeks in summer 2023.

By 2026, NASA may have to turn off at least one of Voyager 2's instruments.

"What we're looking at is making the two spacecraft complementary to each other," Dodd said. "You might keep one instrument operating on one spacecraft but turn it off on another."

Down the road, the choices about which instruments to keep running will be more difficult. Dodd said the scientists would likely keep powering the ones that took the least energy.

"And then it's also an evaluation of the science," she said. "What's the most critical science that we get?"

Even after the spacecraft power down, they have one more mission left

When the spacecraft lose communication with Earth, it will essentially be the end of the mission, Dodd said.

But the Voyagers will continue traveling, Dodd said, perhaps for hundreds of thousands of years.

"They'll just be floating out in space and floating around the center, traveling away from us with a gold record that, hopefully, some being, somewhere, will find in the future."

The golden records are phonographs containing images, words, and music meant to explain human life to aliens . Each Voyager probe has a copy.

In the meantime, Dodd isn't quite ready to say goodbye to the Voyagers.

"It's pretty remarkable, into our 47th year, just the whole record of discoveries it's made," she said.

The fact that there are two spacecraft means the chances are pretty good that at least one of them can keep communicating for a few more years, Dodd said.

"I'm very optimistic that we'll get to a 50-year anniversary," she said.

voyager 2 going to neptune

Watch: Animated map of the solar system shows just how far humans have explored space

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New Scientist

Neptune isn't as blue as we thought it was

By Alex Wilkins

Neptune’s true colour is a pale greenish-blue similar to that of Uranus , contrary to popular images that show it to be a much deeper shade of blue.

Mysterious dark spot on Neptune seen from Earth for the first time

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past the outer planets in the 1980s and sent back photos showing that Uranus and Neptune were markedly different colours.

This is puzzling, given their similar size, mass and chemical make-up. Models of the planets’ atmospheres can explain some of the variation – such as a “haze layer” that is thicker on Uranus and reflects more white light, making the planet appear lighter – but these don’t fully explain why the planets should have such different hues.

Now, Patrick Irwin at the University of Oxford and his colleagues have processed the Voyager 2 images to show how the human eye might see the planets.

The original photos of Neptune taken by Voyager 2 had an enhanced contrast ratio to highlight hard-to-see atmospheric features. Along with the way that the colours were balanced to make a final composite image, this made the planet appear bluer.

Scientists at the time knew this and included these changes in picture captions, but over time the captions were separated from the images and Neptune’s deep blue shade became enshrined as fact in the public consciousness, says Irwin.

He and his team developed a model to convert the raw image data to a true-colour image using shots taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which contain more complete information about the light. This produced similar shades for both planets. “The true-colour image is much more boring and bland because of the way the eye works,” says Irwin.

The researchers also used the Hubble images, along with images from Lowell Observatory in Arizona, to build a model that predicts how Uranus’s colour changes during its long, 84-year orbit around the sun. Because of the planet's spin, we see more of the equator during the equinoxes and more of the poles during the solstices. At the equator, there is more methane, which absorbs red light. The planet also has a hood of reflective, brightening ice particles that forms at the sun-facing pole during the equinoxes, increasing the reflectivity of red and green wavelengths.

This helps explain the long-standing mystery of why Uranus appears slightly greener in its solstices. “We knew there was a hood, and we knew there's less methane at the poles, but no one had put it all together to explain what's actually happening seasonally,” says Irwin.

Journal reference:

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stad3761

The original Voyager 2 photo of Neptune (left) and the reprocessed image from the new study (right) Patrick Irwin

IMAGES

  1. The Voyager spacecraft: 40 years in space, surreal solar system

    voyager 2 going to neptune

  2. Voyager II Probe Passes Neptune Photograph by Mark Garlick/science

    voyager 2 going to neptune

  3. Voyager 2 arriving at the planet Neptune

    voyager 2 going to neptune

  4. Artwork of Voyager 2 approaching Neptune

    voyager 2 going to neptune

  5. Aug. 25, 1989: Voyager 2, Meet Neptune

    voyager 2 going to neptune

  6. Voyager 2 Spacecraft Approaching Neptune Digital Art by Erik Simonsen

    voyager 2 going to neptune

VIDEO

  1. Voyager 2 Neptune flyby

  2. How FAR is VOYAGER 1 after 46 YEARS

  3. Voyager2: Part2

  4. Images taken by Voyager Spacecraft

  5. Voyager 2 fliby Neptune

  6. Neptune & Voyager 2 #astronomy #neptune #voyager

COMMENTS

  1. Voyager

    Voyager 2 traveled 12 years at an average velocity of 19 kilometers a second (about 42,000 miles an hour) to reach Neptune, which is 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth is. Voyager observed Neptune almost continuously from June to October 1989.

  2. 30 Years Ago: Voyager 2's Historic Neptune Flyby

    Thirty years ago, on Aug. 25, 1989, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made a close flyby of Neptune, giving humanity its first close-up of our solar system's eighth planet.

  3. Voyager

    In the summer of 1989, NASA's Voyager 2 became the first spacecraft to observe the planet Neptune, its final planetary target. Passing about 4,950 kilometers (3,000 miles) above Neptune's north pole, Voyager 2 made its closest approach to any planet since leaving Earth 12 years ago.

  4. Voyager 2

    Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune. The probe is now in interstellar space, the region outside the heliopause, or the bubble of energetic particles and magnetic fields from the Sun. Mission Type Flyby launch Aug. 20, 1977 Goals Outer Solar System, Interstellar Space Status Extended Mission What is Voyager 2?

  5. EarthSky

    Thirty-three years ago, on August 25, 1989, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made a close flyby of Neptune. It gave humanity its 1st close-up of our solar system's 8th planet. It also marked the...

  6. 30 Years Ago: Voyager 2 Explores Neptune

    Voyager 2 began to observe Neptune on June 5, 1989, at a distance of 73 million miles. Even at this range, Voyager's images were already four times better than those obtained by Earth-based telescopes.

  7. A New World: NASA Recalls Voyager 2 Probe's 1989 Neptune Encounter

    A quarter-century ago, the world got its first good look at the solar system's other blue planet. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made the first-ever flyby of Neptune on Aug. 25, 1989, zipping by the ...

  8. Voyager 2: Nasa fully back in contact with lost space probe

    Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft ever to fly by Neptune and Uranus, while Voyager 1 is now nearly 15 billion miles away from Earth, making it humanity's most distant spacecraft.

  9. Voyager 2 Discovers New Neptune Moon

    Voyager 2 is now 45 million miles away from Neptune and will make close pass of the planet on Aug. 24, 1989. The spacecraft was launched in 1977 and flew past Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981 and Uranus in 1986.

  10. 30 Years Ago: Voyager 2's Historic Neptune Flyby

    Thirty years ago, on Aug. 25, 1989, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made a close flyby of Neptune, giving humanity its first close-up of our solar system's eighth planet. Marking the end of the Voyager mission's Grand Tour of the solar system's four giant planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - that first was also a last: No other ...

  11. Voyager 2 and Neptune

    Jan 25, 2017 Image Article Voyager 2 is a mission launched by NASA in 1977 to explore Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2 came in close contact with Neptune and its moon Triton, gathering a lot of information about its moon. Click "View Image Feature" below to learn more. Voyager 2 is a mission launched by NASA in 1977 to explore Uranus and Neptune.

  12. Salvaging NASA's Planetary Grand Tour: Sending Voyager 2 Where No Probe

    Voyager 2 would go on to explore Uranus, Neptune and their moons. ... with Neptune on August 25, 1989, Voyager 2 arrived at a spot in space within 100 kilometers of its intended target—after ...

  13. Aug. 25, 1989: Voyager 2, Meet Neptune

    Aug 25, 2010 7:00 AM Aug. 25, 1989: Voyager 2, Meet Neptune 1989: Voyager 2 makes its closest encounter with Neptune, passing just 3,000 miles above the cloud tops of the most distant...

  14. 25 Years After Neptune: Reflections on Voyager

    Fast forward to August 25, 2014: New Horizons, the first mission sent to explore dwarf planet Pluto and other icy objects within the Kuiper Belt, is less than one year away from its arrival. And today, New Horizons will cross Neptune's orbit -- the very day that Voyager 2 flew past Neptune 25 years ago. In celebration of this anniversary ...

  15. 25 Years After Neptune: Reflections on Voyager

    "The Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune was just another example of the surprises we had time after time as Voyager was flying by each of the outer planets," said Ed Stone, project scientist for Voyager at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. ... In the spirit of the Voyager 2 missions to Uranus and Neptune, New Horizons is going where ...

  16. The Voyager 2 Encounter with the Neptunian System

    15 Dec 1989 Vol 246, Issue 4936 pp. 1417 - 1421 DOI: 10.1126/science.246.4936.1417 Abstract An overview of the Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune is presented, including a brief discussion of the trajectory, the planned observations, and highlights of the results described in the 11 companion papers.

  17. When Neptune got its stunning close-up: The Voyager 2 flyby, 30 years

    NASA/JPL A last look at Neptune's south pole after the flyby. NASA/JPL NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft visited Uranus (left) in 1986 and Neptune (right) in 1989. NASA/JPL-Caltech Voyager 2...

  18. Voyager 2

    Voyager 2 was also to explore Jupiter and Saturn, but on a trajectory that would have the option of continuing on to Uranus and Neptune, or being redirected to Titan as a backup for Voyager 1. Upon successful completion of Voyager 1 's objectives, Voyager 2 would get a mission extension to send the probe on towards Uranus and Neptune. [5]

  19. Voyager 2 at Neptune: Imaging Science Results

    Abstract. Voyager 2 images of Neptune reveal a windy planet characterized by bright clouds of methane ice suspended in an exceptionally clear atmosphere above a lower deck of hydrogen sulfide or ammonia ices. Neptune's atmosphere is dominated by a large anticyclonic storm system that has been named the Great Dark Spot (GDS).

  20. Voyager 2: An iconic spacecraft that's still exploring 45 years on

    In about 40,000 years Voyager 2 will pass 1.7 light-years (9.7 trillion miles) from the star Ross 248, according to NASA JPL. The cosmic vagabond will continue its journey through interstellar ...

  21. Voyager

    Thirty years ago, on Aug. 25, 1989, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made a close flyby of Neptune, giving humanity its first close-up of our solar system's eighth planet. Marking the end of the Voyager mission's Grand Tour of the solar system's four giant planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - that first was also a last: No other ...

  22. Exploration of Neptune

    On 25 August, in Voyager 2 's last planetary encounter, the spacecraft swooped only 4,950 km (3,080 mi) above Neptune's north pole, the closest approach it had made to any body since it left Earth in 1977. At that time, Neptune was the farthest known body in the Solar System.

  23. Color-corrected images reveal accurate portraits of Uranus and Neptune

    The first detailed glimpses of the two ice giants on the outer edge of our solar system were made possible by NASA's Voyager 2 mission, which conducted flybys of Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in ...

  24. Neptune, Uranus show true colors in new photos

    The first detailed glimpses of the two ice giants on the outer edge of our solar system were made possible by NASA's Voyager 2 mission, which conducted flybys of Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in ...

  25. Neptune isn't as blue as you think, and these new images of the planet

    The images of Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, and Neptune, the eighth planet, were collected in 1986 and 1989, respectively, as NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft headed out of the solar system.

  26. Voyager 2 Image of Neptune

    Voyager 2 Image of Neptune NASA Jul 13, 2015 Image Article This picture of Neptune was produced from the last whole planet images taken through the green and orange filters on the Voyager 2 narrow angle camera.

  27. New Oxford study shatters misconceptions: Uranus and Neptune's ...

    To date, only one spacecraft, Voyager 2, has recorded Uranus and Neptune closely, reaching them in 1985 and 1988 respectively. For many years, NASA's color scheme presented in the Voyager 2 images ...

  28. NASA's Voyager Spacecraft Communication May End Soon

    NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 are the only human-made objects to reach interstellar space. The two probes launched in 1977 and may soon lose communication with Earth. NASA hopes to stay in contact with ...

  29. Neptune isn't as blue as we thought it was

    NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past the outer planets in the 1980s and sent back photos showing that Uranus and Neptune were markedly different colours. This is puzzling, given their similar ...