Posts Tagged ‘space’

‘Retire’ the Voyager name

It took 35 years to make the leap, but a plucky little spacecraft has gone where none have gone before; beyond the bounds of the solar system and into the black between stars. Voyager 1 is our first starship; the first interstellar traveler. As such, the name Voyager should be “retired” from future use to honor the mission and humans who worked to make Voyager’s journey so remarkable.

On September 11, 2013, Voyager 1 officially sailed through the outer edges of our solar system on it Interstellar Mission. After exploring the outer planets, Voyager’s primary mission is to explore the edge of the heliosphere; a huge bubble of charged particles or plasma surrounding the Sun. It popped through that bubble sometime in the summer of 2012.

In 1977, Voyager 1 launched a couple months behind its sister, Voyager 2. It was an exciting era of space exploration. Scientists dreamed up a brilliant mission to take a Grand Tour and discover much about the outer solar system. Over the next few years, Voyager dazzled us with amazing close-up images and science of Jupiter and Saturn, then Uranus and Neptune.

19 Amazing Voyager Facts

  • Voyager 1 is traveling at more than 40,000 miles per hour crossing about 3.6 AU per year. Voyager 2 traverses a distance of nearly 3.3 AU per year.
  • Voyager 2 was the first spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune
  • Voyager 1 and 2 are the oldest pieces of space hardware still in contact with Earth.
  • It takes a message, traveling at the speed of light, more than 17 hours to reach the Voyager 1 spacecraft.
  • Even though New Horizons was launched at a faster speed than the Voyager spacecraft, the Pluto-bound probe will never overtake Voyager.
  • Each Voyager spacecraft is a complex machine comprised of about 65,000 individual parts. A modern color television contains just 2,500 parts.
  • In terms of mpg, Voyagers are extremely fuel efficient getting better than 30,000 miles per gallon.
  • The Voyager mission has been exceptionally frugal. The mission has costed only 8 cents per year, per US resident between 1972 and now to fund the mission.
  • Both Voyager spacecraft have enough fuel and power to operate until about 2020. NASA’s sensitive Deep Space Network could track the spacecraft for another century or two if not for the possibility that the spacecraft might lose their lock on the Sun.
  • Five trillion bits of data, enough information to fill more than 7,000 music CDs, flowed from Voyager’s instruments to Earth.
  • On September 18, 1977, Voyager 1 looked back at its homeworld and captured a three-image mosaic of the Earth and Moon. It was the first time both bodies were photographed together.
  • On February 17, 1990 Voyager turns its camera toward the Sun to take the only existing snapshot of the Solar System. Voyager’s last light shows a panorama of 60, sunlight-dappled images including the now famous “Pale Blue Dot” image of Earth.
  • On February 17, 1998, Voyager 1 overtook Pioneer 10 to become most distant human-made object in space.
  • Voyager’s vision is so sharp that the narrow-angle television cameras could read a newspaper headline at a distance of 1 kilometer or .62 miles.
  • Voyager spotted the first non-terrestrial active volcano on Jupiter’s moon Io.
  • Saturn’s rings became a dazzling and complex interaction of ice particles woven by the gravitational tug of Saturn and its moons.
  • Voyager 1 shows Saturn’s moon Titan is covered with a mysterious orange haze.
  • Uranus has a ring. Voyager spotted a faint, dark ring around the greenish gas giant.
  • Voyager 1 has traversed across more than 11 billion miles of space. That seems like a long way, and it is, but it will take Voyager 1 nearly 100,000 years to cross the distance between our Sun and the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. Alas, both spacecraft will have lonely journeys. In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will pass within 1.6 light-years of AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation Camelopardalis. Also in 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will drift 1.7 light-years from Ross 248 on its way toward Sirius. In 296,000 years, the tiny Earth probe will pass just 4.3 light-years from the bright star.

[sexybutton size=”xxl” color=”red” url=”” icon=”ok”]Tell NASA to retire Voyager’s name[/sexybutton]

Join me in signing a petition to NASA and other space agencies to retire the Voyager name.

Carnival of Space #280

The Internets were abuzz last week with all sorts of spacey news. Let’s dive right in for the 280th edition of Carnival of Space!

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17 leaving the Moon. Amy Shira Teitel with Vintage Space offers a look back at the last words they spoke while still on its surface.

The Air & Space blog brings us “Dr Paul Spudis’s The Lunar Surface – What Lies Beneath, what the The NASA mission GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) shows us.The Meridian Journal also reports on the odd ‘bubble rings.’

The Lunar and Planetary Institute highlights odd ‘bubble rings’ from Curiosity, and NASA press release images for November. Mars, Moon, Mercury, Titan and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Cheap Astronomy indulges in a little speculation on the future of humanity (podcast).

EverydaySpacer offers up “#108 See Emily’s Snapshots. From explaining the seasons on Mars to sorting out Saturn’s rings, it seems there is already plenty of variety in the six videos on the Snapshots from Space page of The Planetary Society website as of this publication.

Cosmoquest reminds us that Citizen science projects abound, whether you want to study the weather, nature’s critters, or the night sky. Get out more and do some science.

The Chandra blog helps us understand ‘What’s Out There By Looking Down Here as well as Revealing Hidden Black Holes”.

There’s an abundance of news at NextBigFuture. The president of SpaceX said the U.S. domestic space launch market has “changed dramatically” in the last two weeks as a result of an Air Force decision to award the upstart company its first military contracts. Gwynn Shotwell also said SpaceX plans to grow its nascent military launch business. After calling the market for commercial space launches “incredibly stable, if not growing,” Shotwell said her company was not worried about how sequestration could impact the industry. Shotwell warned that the U.S. runs the risk of falling behind international competitors. “The U.S. has definitely been complacent, I think, on launch,” Shotwell said, specifically mentioning that China is investing heavily in space technology. “I think it’s critically important not to write the Chinese off. I think they will be the fiercest competitor here in the next five to 10 years.”

Astroblogger brings us spectacular images of the asteroid Toutais flyby. Universe Today also brings us NASA’s radar images from Toutais’ tumbling pass as well as images of the incredible sky show put on by the Geminid meteor shower. Also check out the great video of GRAIL capturing LRO as it flew by, a Nile-like delta on Titan. And lastly, Hubble census unveils galaxies near the cosmic dawn, at a record-setting red shift of 12.

Tranquility Base writes about teachers in space: pioneer Christa McAuliffe and the teachers that followed her.

The folks with the NASA/ESA Hubble regularly release spectacular images from the orbiting telescope. StarryCritters, this website, lets you lose yourself zooming into an image of ESO 318-13 full of glittering stars and far-away galaxies. StarryCritters also promotes Hubble Star Cards; a game that lets you hold the universe in your hands.

Want to catch up or read back posts on COS? Uni­ver­se­To­day has the entire archive. If you have a space-related blog and you want a lit­tle expo­sure con­sider con­tribut­ing to the Car­ni­val of Space. Just email your post to and the cur­rent week’s host will add a link. If you feel really ambi­tious and want to help send an email to the above email and sign up as a host. We’d love to have you either way.

Carnival of Space #131

Welcome to the Carnival of Space #131; the greatest weekly collection of space-related blogs here on Earth and beyond! I’ll be your ringmaster for the week.

Last week was Thanksgiving here in the United States. With all the festivities, family time, trips to the science museum and indulging in the sweet stuff, I fell behind in keeping up with all the cool astronomy going on. So I’m thankful I have this traveling carnival to help me catch up and for the cheat sheet for chatting up astronomy over the dinner table provided by AliceAstro at AstroInfo. Had I done much socializing, I’m sure this primer would have come in handy.

If you’re visiting StarryCritters for the first time; Welcome! I am a science writer, web designer/developer and a JPL Solar System Ambassador. StarryCritters, a NASA Top Star winner, was created mainly to help children use their imaginations by creating stories from what they see in images taken by NASA’s Great Observatories, particularly Hubble Space Telescope. So explore the site and the universe through the amazing images. Use the tool to pan and zoom around the images. A button on the far right of the toolbar will cause the image to fill your screen with starry wonder. Feel free to play.

I’m looking at the calendar lamenting the fact that IYA 2009 has nearly run its course. Only 32 more days left to get in all that cool astronomy stuff. Astronomy never ends. What’s in store for IYA 2010? Five more shuttle flights, more auroras at Saturn, continued geyser watching on Enceladus, rooting for Spirit escaping the Martian sand trap, marveling over videos of fireballs, and more great discoveries by Spitzer and other great observatories.

At Bad Astronomy, Phil, dives deep, with alliteration, into the origin of bulgy galactic middles. You have to embiggenate the stunning images of Terzan5 from the European Southern Observatory. Or just zoom into one here.

Terzan5. Credit: ESO

Handing out the aforementioned helpful holiday chat tips is AstroInfo.

Wonder what Atlantis astronauts had for their turkey day meal in orbit? Maybe they bandied Alice’s tips about. Find out at CollectSpace.

Cheap Astronomy delivers a podcast about how the remaining space shuttle missions will finish building the ISS.

CumbrianSky shares the tale of a successful public star party. We should all have a few of these.

Fellow Jayhawk, AngryAstronomer, sets his eyes on tearing down Creationist goalposts with a discussion about a new paper on increasing “metallicity” in an aging universe.

Speculation on top of speculation at NextBigFuture. Dark Matter rockets and is the universe made to be optimized for black hole powered space travel?

If you’ve had your fill of Black Friday, Cyber Monday (who comes up with these names?) and college football, Music of the Spheres found some interesting online resources related to the final Hubble service mission that took place in May 2009.

“Climategate” is all over the news but you’ll want to read Ian O’Neill’s take DiscoveryNews.

Simostronomy catches up with legendary variable star observer Albert Jones in this in-depth “interbiew”. Jones is a powerhouse with more than 500,000 variable star measurements to his credit.

Want to make a run at that number in 2010? Algol Blinks guides first-time observers of variable stars.

Debunking 2012 madness this week falls to Steve’s Astro Corner. I’ll definitely be taking away the credit card of my teen if she falls for the 2012 hype. Right! She doesn’t get a credit card.

But hold on, we can move the Earth. WeirdWarp has the details.

Preheat at 90 for 15 minutes. Puzzled? Head over to ChandraBlog. Hint: it has nothing to do with climate change, collisions at the Large Hadron Collider, exploding suns or hurtling planets.

Einstein said God doesn’t play dice with the universe but UniverseToday tells how to play Galaxy Zoo’s latest game, Cosmic Mergers.

One of the possible micro-fossils as origianlly photographed.  © NASA

One of the possible micro-fossils as origianlly photographed. © NASA

And we’ll leave you pondering the renewed debate over the Allen Hills Meteorite (you know the one supposedly containing a fossilized Martian bacteria-like organism?) highlighted by Planetaria.


The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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