45 years in space: what is known about the iconic “Voyager-2”, which left the solar system

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The companion of the famous “Voyager-1” is still continuing its work in space and its instrument will be in working order at least until 2025.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched into space on August 20, 1977, and it was the first to fly to explore the Solar System. While its partner “Voyager-1” went into space only on September 5. The main task of this device, like its colleagues, was to study the distant planets of the Solar System — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Although it left the solar system back in 2018, the spacecraft continues to fly through space. The publication Space writes about the main achievements of the device before it went into deep space.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft is an exact copy of the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Both have left the boundaries of the solar system and are flying further into space. As Focus has already written, the latter experienced failures in the operation of its instruments, and NASA is trying to restore its performance.

“Voyager-2” has no such problems, and it is currently flying in space at a speed of 55 thousand km/h and is at the time of writing this material at a distance of 19.5 billion km from Earth. How the speed and distance of the device from the Earth and the Sun changes can be monitored on the NASA website.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched into space on August 20, 1977, and it was the first to fly to explore the Solar System. While its companion “Voyager-1” went into space only on September 5
Photo: NASA
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A unique spacecraft

Voyager 2 is the first and only spacecraft to reach Uranus and Neptune. He also visited Jupiter and Saturn, as did Voyager 1, for which these planets were the main goal of study.

In fact, Voyager 2 was a backup copy of Voyager 1. NASA decided that if the latter fails, its copy will complete the tasks of studying Jupiter and Saturn, even sacrificing the study of Neptune and Uranus. But everything went according to plan and both devices are still in space.

Visiting Jupiter and Saturn

Voyager 2 reached Jupiter in 1979, just 4 months after Voyager 1 visited. This allowed scientists to compare images from the two devices to obtain even more valuable information. For example, a close flyby of the device helped record changes in the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. The device was also able to study the surfaces of some satellites of the gas giant.

Voyager 2 reached Jupiter in 1979, just 4 months after Voyager 1 visited
Photo: NASA
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One of the most important achievements of “Voyager-2” was that it managed to take the most detailed pictures of Jupiter’s satellite Europa from a distance of 200 thousand km. It was “Voyager-1” that first discovered a small satellite of Jupiter Adrastea with a diameter of only 30.5 km. His partner had also discovered two moons, Thebes and Metis, a few months earlier.

In 1981, the spacecraft came within 100,000 km of Saturn, took hundreds of pictures of the planet, its satellites and famous rings.

In 1981, the spacecraft came within 100,000 km of Saturn, took hundreds of pictures of the planet, its satellites and famous rings
Photo: NASA

Visiting Uranus and Neptune

In 1986, Voyager 2 became the first and so far the only Earth probe to approach Uranus. The device took many pictures of the planet, and its instruments recorded the fact that the ice giant’s atmosphere is made up of approximately 85% hydrogen and 15% helium.

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The spacecraft also discovered rings in Uranus, the presence of a magnetic field, and it also discovered 10 new satellites of this planet. “Voyager-2” was able to photograph probably the strangest satellite in the solar system — Miranda. The surface of this object looks as if it has been destroyed and reassembled several times.

“Voyager-2” was able to photograph, probably, the strangest satellite in the solar system – Miranda. The surface of this object looks as if it has been destroyed and reassembled several times
Photo: NASA

In 1989, Voyager 2 approached Neptune at a distance of 48,000 km. The device discovered 5 new satellites, as well as rings around the planet.

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Voyager 2 interstellar journey

On November 5, 2018, Voyager 2 crossed the heliopause, the boundary between the heliosphere and interstellar space, meaning it officially left the Solar System. At that moment, it was approximately 17.6 billion km from Earth.

NASA believes that all the instruments of the spacecraft will be in working order for several more years, that is, until about 2025. But even after that, the device will continue its journey through space.

Scientists believe that after 40 thousand years Voyager 2 will fly at a distance of 1.7 light years from the star Ross 248 in the Andromeda constellation. And after about 300 thousand years, the device will fly past the star Sirius in the constellation Canis Major at a distance of 4.3 light years. By the way, the images of Uranus and Neptune taken by Voyager 2 are still the basis of observations of these ice giants. The Voyager 2 spacecraft has been in space for 44 years, 11 months and 28 days.

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