Voyager probes are pioneers of science, going further into space than any other man-made object.
NASA originally sent the twin probes on a four-year mission to Jupiter and Saturn in 1977; they exceeded all expectations and are still ongoing 45 years later, making it NASA’s longest-running mission.
Incredible photos of the solar system are among the results they broadcast before NASA shut down the cameras.
But now they face a terminal problem: Their energy is running out, and NASA scientists are shutting down more instruments on board to conserve energy.
As they near the end of their mission, here are 18 images from Voyager that changed science:
Voyager probes were designed to visit Jupiter and Saturn.
The Voyager mission included two spacecraft — Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 — that NASA launched in 1977 within months of each other.
The launches capitalized on a rare alignment of planets that allowed them to supercharge their space travel.
NASA originally built the probes to last five years, but they’ve exceeded that lifespan many times over.
On September 9, 2022, the probes had been traveling for 45 years.
This is what Voyager 1 saw on its approach to Jupiter.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 reached Jupiter in 1979. They took about 50,000 images of the planet in total, which far surpassed the quality of the images scientists have taken from Earth, according to NASA.
The images taught scientists important facts about the planet’s atmosphere, magnetic forces and geology that might otherwise have been difficult to decipher.
Probes have discovered two new moons orbiting Jupiter: Thebe and Metis….
…as well as a thin ring around Jupiter.
The spacecraft captured this image while looking at the planet backlit by the sun.
Voyager 1’s biggest discovery was volcanic activity on the surface of Io, one of Jupiter’s moons.
Next stop: Saturn
In 1980 and 1981, the probes reached Saturn. The flyby gave scientists an unprecedented view of the planet’s ring structure, atmosphere and moons.
Voyager taught scientists the details of Saturn’s rings.
Voyager captured Saturn’s moon Enceladus in unprecedented detail.
This image, taken as the spacecraft flew by, provided a unique view of the planet.
In 1986, Voyager 2 had arrived at Uranus
Voyager 1 went straight ahead and would not have encountered another planet on its journey out of the solar system.
But Voyager 2 continued its exploration of our closest planets, passing within 50,600 miles of Uranus in January 1986.
He discovered two more rings around Uranus, revealing that the planet had at least 11, not 9.
His images of Uranus’ largest moons also uncovered 11 never-before-seen moons.
Here is an image of Miranda, the sixth largest moon of Uranus.
Voyager 2 was the first spacecraft to observe Neptune from a close distance.
In 1989, 12 years after its launch, Voyager 2 passed within 3,000 miles of Neptune.
An image shows the full blue Neptune.
An image shows the rough surface of Triton.
He captured Neptune’s moon Triton in unprecedented detail.
Another shows Triton’s southern hemisphere.
He captured the rings of Neptune.
Here, Voyager saw the crescent shape of Neptune’s south pole as it moved away.
Voyager 2 will never take pictures again. Since it wouldn’t have run into another planet on its current journey, NASA turned off its cameras after the Neptune flyby to save power for other instruments.
Voyager took 60 images of the solar system from about 4 billion miles away.
As a last photographic hurrah, Voyager 1 snapped 60 images of the solar system from 4 billion miles away in 1990.
He gave us the farthest self-portrait on Earth, dubbed the “pale blue dot.”
This is likely to remain the longest-range selfie in human history for some time: a portrait of Earth from 4 billion miles away.
After this image, NASA turned off Voyager 1’s cameras to conserve energy. NASA could turn the probes’ cameras back on, but it’s not a priority for the mission.
Beyond the solar system
While the probes are no longer sending images, they haven’t stopped sending back crucial information about space.
In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first man-made instrument to traverse interstellar space across the heliopause, the boundary between our solar system and the rest of the universe.
Voyager 2 was the second, to have crossed the border in 2018. It later revealed that there was an extra border surrounding our solar bubble.
The probes continue to send measurements from interstellar space, as strange buzzing sounds probably coming from the vibrations produced by nearby stars.
Even after their instruments are shut down, the probes’ mission continues.
Now NASA is planning to shut down the probes’ instruments more with the hope of extending their life until 2030.
But even after all instruments go silent, the probes will still drift away carrying the gold disc, which could provide crucial information about humanity if intelligent extraterrestrial life existed and it stumbled upon the probes.
This article was originally published on June 6, 2022.
Read the original article on Business Insider