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NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft

Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

 

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features, objectives and accomplishments of Voyager 1 and 2.

 

Context: NASA’s Voyager 2 has entered interstellar space, leaving behind the solar system.

 

Accomplishments so far:

  • Voyager 2 is the only probe ever to study Neptune and Uranus during planetary flybys.
  • It is the second man-made object to leave our planet. It is now 11 billion miles from Earth, following behind it’s sister spacecraft, Voyager 1, which is 6 years ahead of it. The probe is estimated to be travelling at 34,000 mph.
  • Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have visited all four gas giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — and discovered 16 moons, as well as phenomena like Neptune’s mysteriously transient Great Dark Spot, the cracks in Europa’s ice shell, and ring features at every planet.

 

What is Interstellar space?

Scientists use the heliopause to mark where interstellar space begins, although depending on how you define our solar system it can stretch all the way to the Oort Cloud, which begins 1,000 times farther away from the sun than Earth’s orbit.

 

The Heliosphere:

The heliosphere is a bubble around the sun created by the outward flow of the solar wind from the sun and the opposing inward flow of the interstellar wind. That heliosphere is the region influenced by the dynamic properties of the sun that are carried in the solar wind–such as magnetic fields, energetic particles and solar wind plasma. The heliopause marks the end of the heliosphere and the beginning of interstellar space.

 

About Voyager mission:

  • The Voyager mission was launched in the 1970’s, and the probes sent by NASA were only meant to explore the outer planets – but they just kept on going.
  • Voyager 1 departed Earth on 5 September 1977, a few days after Voyager 2 and left our solar system in 2013.
  • The mission objective of the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) is to extend the NASA 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.
  • The Voyager spacecraft are the third and fourth human spacecraft to fly beyond all the planets in our solar system. Pioneers 10 and 11 preceded Voyager in outstripping the gravitational attraction of the Sun but on February 17, 1998, Voyager 1 passed Pioneer 10 to become the most distant human-made object in space.

 

Sources: the hindu.