Voyager 1 and 2 are spacecraft’sfloating through space, discovering parts of the solar system that was oncedeemed unreachable. The Voyager missions have proven to be very effective incollecting data from the farthest planets in our solar system, and has beenorbiting space since 1977. Voyager 1 launched on September 5th, 1977,and Voyager 2 launched on August 20, 1977. After NASA discontinued the Apollomissions, scientists still hoped to reach the depths of the Solar System.Through Voyager, astronomers have collected data and images from the outerSolar System, and in 2012, reached interstellar space. Voyager paved the way tolearn more about the Solar System, and increase information about the manyplanets that are within our Solar System. Voyager’sfirst purpose was to explore Jupiter and Saturn.
The first Voyager mission wasonly built to last five years, however, scientists felt that with the distanceit had already, it could be extended further. As a result, Voyager 1 and 2 hasbeen traveling for the past 40 years. The mission relied heavily on thealignment of the four outer planets, which would allow for minimum propellantand trip time. When one of the planets fly by, it causes the space craft’sflight path to bend, and velocity is increased enough to send it to its next destination. Voyager1 and 2 are identical. They are made up of enough equipment to conduct 10different experiments throughout it journey.
The spacecraft contains televisioncameras, infrared and ultraviolet sensors, magnetometers, plasma detectors, andcosmic-ray and charged-particle sensors. The spacecraft has a radio that isused to conduct experiments. Voyager cannot use solar panels since it istraveling away from the sun and is therefore too far away. Instead, it isequipped with a power source called a radioisotope thermoelectric generator.These devices convert heat produced from natural radioactive decay of plutoniuminto electricity so the spacecraft can operate and use its various instruments. Thedata that the spacecraft is able to collect is then returned through what iscalled the Deep Space Network. The DSN is a global tracking system with antennacomplexes located around the world in the Mojave Desert, close to Madrid, andnear Australia.
The data collected is then studied for further examination. Voyagersmain focus was to study the outer planets of the Solar System. The planets thatVoyager hoped to reach were Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 1 hadits closest encounter with Jupiter on March 5th, 1979, and begantaking images of the planet on January of that year. Voyager 1 was able to complete its encounterwith Jupiter in April, where 19,000 images were taken by the spacecraft, andwas able to collect other forms of data. Voyager 2 also reached Jupiter in lateApril, and continued to study the planet until August.
It was able to amass33,000 images of the planet and its five major satellites. Jupiterwas not a hard planet to study before Voyager reached it. Astronomers hadconsiderable knowledge of the planet before the missions. However, throughVoyager, scientists discovered a lot more about Jupiter than they everimagined.
Through the findings of Voyager, they could understand importantaspects of Jupiter like geological, physical and the process of its atmosphere.One of the most important pieces of information discovered about Jupiter wasabout its satellite Io. Iois one of Jupiter’s moon, it the third largest, and the fifth one in distancefrom its planet. What astronomers found so surprising about Io was that it hadvarious active volcanoes that erupted frequently. Io has 9 erupting volcanoesthat reach 300 km into the atmosphere, with velocities at 1 km/s. It isclassified as the most volcanically active world in the Solar System. Io’svolcanoes may be caused due to satellite heating through tidal pumping.
Io isin a tug of war between the strong gravity that Jupiter exerts and the “preciselytimed” pulls from Jupiter’s other moons; Europa and Ganymede. Scientists didnot expect to find other volcanic worlds in the Solar System besides Earth. Jupiterhas other moons; Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Voyager was also able to findinformation regarding Jupiter’s own rings, and its moons. They exist due to an intenseradiation belt of electrons and ions that are trapped in its magnetic field. Itcomprises its Jovian magnetic environment, which ranges from three to sevenmillion kilometers toward the sun, and stretches as far as Saturn’s orbit, whichis a distance of 750 million kilometers. Its magnetic environment rotates withJupiter, it can pass Io and takes with it 1,000 kilograms of material eachsecond.
This forms a torus, which is a cloud of ions that come together andpressures the magnetic environment, as the sulfuric and oxygen ions fall intothe magnetic field into the planet’s atmosphere which makes auroras.