August 20, 2010

Voyager 2 Launched – 1977

This unmanned spacecraft took photos and measurements of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and then streaked out of the solar system towards the stars. It carried a 12-inch copper phonograph record with recorded greetings from Earth people in 60 languages, along with samples of music and natural sounds including whale singing. Electronic information that an advanced technological civilization could convert to diagrams and pictures accompanies the music.

Voyager 2 has been in continuous operation for 12,016 days now, and it is more than 14 billion kilometers away from the sun. It takes almost 13 hours for signals from the spaceship to reach Earth.

The data we are now receiving from the spacecraft concerns the properties of the solar wind and its interaction with interstellar winds.

Did you know that there was wind in space? The sun ejects streams of charged particles in all directions, making a sphere or a “bubble” in the interstellar medium (gas and dust) that surrounds the solar system. This bubble is called the heliosphere.

I know you've probably heard that outer space is a vacuum, which means that it is pretty much empty—no matter at all... Now I'm saying that there are charged particles, gas, and dust, let alone all the radio waves, light, and other forms of radiation. But the matter in outer space is so sparse, it still makes a high-quality vacuum that is hard for us here on Earth to copy, with just a few atoms per cubic centimeter.

Check out the Voyager website!

Don't forget to check out the kids' section.

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