Voyager 2 at 12,000 Days: The Super-Marathon Continues

By | July 16, 2010

Artist's concept of Voyager 2NASA’s plucky Voyager 2 spacecraft has hit a long-haul operations milestone today (June 28) — operating continuously for 12,000 days. For nearly 33 years, the venerable spacecraft has been returning data about the giant outer planets, and the characteristics and interaction of solar wind between and beyond the planets. Among its many findings, Voyager 2 discovered Neptune’s Great Dark Spot and its 450-meter-per-second (1,000-mph) winds.

The two Voyager spacecraft have been the longest continuously operating spacecraft in deep space. Voyager 2 launched on August 20, 1977, when Jimmy Carter was president. Voyager 1 launched about two weeks later on Sept. 5. The two spacecraft are the most distant human-made objects, out at the edge of the heliosphere — the bubble the sun creates around the solar system. Mission managers expect Voyager 1 to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space in the next five years or so, with Voyager 2 on track to enter interstellar space shortly after that.

Having traveled more than 21 billion kilometers (13 billion miles) on its winding path through the planets toward interstellar space, the spacecraft is now nearly 14 billion kilometers (9 billion miles) from the sun. A signal from the ground, traveling at the speed of light, takes about 12.8 hours one-way to reach Voyager 2.

Voyager 1 will reach this 12,000-day milestone on July 13, 2010 after traveling more than 22 billion kilometers (14 billion miles). Voyager 1 is currently more than 17 billion kilometers (11 billion miles) from the sun.

The Voyagers were built by JPL, which continues to operate both spacecraft. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about the Voyagers, visit: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/.

via NASA – Voyager 2 at 12,000 Days: The Super-Marathon Continues.

One thought on “Voyager 2 at 12,000 Days: The Super-Marathon Continues

  1. Ann

    Exactly where is Voyager 2 and in what direction is it headed? Is it headed to any of our nearest neighbors in the Milky Way?

    Proxima Centuri (or Alpha Centauri C) is our closest neighbor at “only” 4.2 light-years away. It’s part of the Alpha Centuri star system that includes Alpha Centauri A and B, which are about 4.3 light-years away. Somewhere out there nearby is also Rigil Kentaurus, which also about 4.3 light-years away. But, I don’t know where these stars are in terms of directions from earth.

    Then, there are bunch of red dwarfs: Barnard’s Star (5.9 light-years away), Wolf 359 (7.7 light-years away, the star in “Star Trek the Next generation”) and Luyten 726-8A and B (8.73 light-years away). There is also Lalande 211858, which is not a red dwarf, but a faint star at 8.26 light years away.

    Then, bit further, there is the brightest star in our sky, Sirius A, about which the ancient Egyptians granted great respect. It’s about 8.6 light-years away. Sirius B, which orbits Sirius A, wasn’t discovered until mid-1800, but about which Dogan of Mali knew for hundreds of years, at least according to French anthropologists in the 1930s. And, presumably the Dogan knew about the orbit of this star, before Western astronomers discovered it in the second half of the 20th century!

    Here’s a hypothesis. We know from archeological studies that the Sahara Desert was once green with animals, rivers and lakes. And, there were people and cultures living there. And, they must have had contact with entities from a planet revolving one of Sirius stars to know the details about Sirius’s orbits. As the land dried and as these cultures influenced their neighbors, we have their descendants in Mali in the western Sahara and the Egyptians in the eastern end, both of whom regarded the star as important. …. Wasn’t one of the earliest large constructions in ancient Egypt the Sphinx? Maybe the aliens looked like the Sphinx? … I could go on, but I think it’s fairly evident I lost whatever grasp I had with reality a few sentences ago.

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