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Twenty years after Voyager Answered

As discussed in Physics World today, it was twenty years ago (25 Aug 1989) that Voyager 2 completed its Grand Tour of the Solar System and headed off toward interstellar space. The two spacecraft are still active and collecting data as they approach the boundary (the heliopause) between our Solar System and the rest of the Galaxy.

27 Aug 2009 minor update: Fixed name of Web site

Discussions

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Kiteman

10 years ago

Such small vehicles, going so quickly, in such a vast Universe...

...yet they still keep crashing into alien spaceships.

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lemonieKiteman

Reply 10 years ago

You've seen the Gary Larson cartoon of Santa & a plane...?
aaaaaaaaaaaa I'm thinking of Christmas already!

L

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Kitemanlemonie

Reply 10 years ago

You know, I don't think I have?

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kelseymhKiteman

Reply 10 years ago

What really amazes me is that they are still operating. The power-intensive instruments (cameras, etc.) are turned off, but they are still collecting good science data after all this time.

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kelseymhRock Soldier

Reply 10 years ago

Outdated? Yes and no. Why don't you do some research on your own, rather than taking someone else's word for it? You can look up Voyager on Wikipedia, and the article(s) will have great links to primary sources.

The electronics built into the craft are "old," and have a much larger form factor than modern high-performance chips. However, for space applications (and especially for high-radiation environments such as the outer the solar system), that is a benefit. Larger components, which are made of more atoms, are less susceptible to damage or disruption by cosmic rays.

Also, theRTGs (radioisotope thermoelectric generators) used on the Voyagers, as on Cassini, are extremely robust and simple in design. I don't think they've changed much in the past 40 years or so.

Radio transmitters aren't substantially different (how many ways can you make a focusing parabola?), either.

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Rock Soldierkelseymh

Reply 10 years ago

Why don't you do some research on your own, rather than taking someone else's word for it?
... Because I never took someone else's word for it, which why I asked.

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kelseymhRock Soldier

Reply 10 years ago

But if you just ask, and I tell you, how do you know I'm right, or even have any idea what I'm talking about? :-) Getting back to the primary source documents you can make your own judgement.

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kelseymhRock Soldier

Reply 10 years ago

I'm not mad at all! Sorry that's how you read it. As a scientist (well, okay, maybe a mad scientist :-), I am a strong advocate for evidence-based rather than faith-based learning. No one should be taken as an "authority" over your own understanding and good judgement.

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Rock Soldierkelseymh

Reply 10 years ago

No problem at all, however...
If I read online or from a book or basicaly any reference source, won't I be taking someones word for "it"?
After reading several references of course

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kelseymhRock Soldier

Reply 10 years ago

Depends on the "it." You asked a question, "are the systems in the Voyager spacecraft outdated." I could give you an answer, "yes" (for example), and you could just believe that I'm right. Or, you could research information on exactly what kinds of components were used, and judge for yourself which ones could be replaced with better things today, and which ones are still "state of the art." You will obviously be "trusting" that the engineers and scientists who wrote the papers describing what they built were not lying, but you won't be taking someone else's conclusion and judgement as your own.

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lemonie

10 years ago

I can't dig up a source right now, but I've previously read that at least one of these probes isn't quite where it should be. Do you have an opinion / summary of this? as I've probably recycled the article... L

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kelseymhlemonie

Reply 10 years ago

You're talking about either the Pioneer anomaly, or the fly-by anomaly, I believe. Those two Wiki articles provide a much better summary than I could, along with good references. Please read the peer-reviewed articles, not the popular media cruft, if you want more detail.

There's no evidence that the Voyagers' trajectories have the same deviations as the Pioneers', which (in my opinion) lends more credence to the hypothesis that there's some unexpected thrust with the Pioneer systems, rather than some gravitational or cosmological mystery. Nor do the telemetry and trajectory data from the Voyagers show any unexpected delta-V during their multiple gravitational assists.

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lemoniekelseymh

Reply 10 years ago

Ah, yes I think those may be it. Now that I see the words "fly-by" I remember not being too convinced. I don't have easy access to peer-reviewed articles (anymore) but I don't read poor-quality publications (for information) either. L

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kelseymhlemonie

Reply 10 years ago

:-D Yeah, I am confident that's true. Keep in mind that there might be one or two people other than you reading my comment >cough<, who might not be so discriminating :-)

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lemoniekelseymh

Reply 10 years ago

Personally, I don't think many people have a lot of interest in things more than a mile away from them these days. A big launch on TV, some pretty pictures maybe, but the science interest is lost on most. One cheap comment in a paper on the subject of Scotland releasing Al-Megrahni back to Libya to die: "most Americans couldn't even find Scotland on a map". (it's about awareness of wider spaces / other worlds) L

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kelseymhlemonie

Reply 10 years ago

"most Americans couldn't even find Scotland on a map". I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but most Americans couldn't find the United States on a map :-( And I is one of they.

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lemoniekelseymh

Reply 10 years ago

Yes, you see the point - where the hell is ~~Carmen Sandiego~~ Voyager? Time was when more people would be interested, but it seems to be a niche area of interest these days? L

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kelseymhlemonie

Reply 10 years ago

They aren't in the news, because nothing much is happening with them. People bombarded with far too much new "information" every day to be good about keeping up with older, and more static, stuff.

Most people are interested in science, and especially space, and when there's a new mission, or some particularly unusual event/observation, it gets a fair amount of coverage. But, "the Voyager spacecraft are now 45,387 km farther away from us than they were yestereday" just isn't news.

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kelseymhLithium Rain

Reply 10 years ago

Oh, just trying to participate in the general level of American edjimacation and grammer.

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Lithium Rainkelseymh

Reply 10 years ago

Phew, I couldn't reconcile the notion of you searching the map...my head was about to 'asplode.

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kelseymhlemonie

Reply 10 years ago

The raw data for both anomalies seem fairly solid, although the flyby-anomaly isn't more than a couple of sigma (and therefore not necessarily real). The increasingly fanciful interpretations, however....

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lemoniekelseymh

Reply 10 years ago

It was interesting (coming back to me) but the fly-by anomalies weren't consistent, "why" is a good question but extrapolating that to the spooky is going a bit far. Anyway the Voyager probes are getting closer to the heliopause, if they still report that might be interesting. Contact with space-aliens and James Tiberius Kirk is a lot further off.... L

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Goodhart

10 years ago

For a moment, I thought you were talking about THAT Star Trek Voyager series. Or even the first Star Trek Movie.

This, by far, is more interesting :-)

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Lithium RainGoodhart

Reply 10 years ago

HAHA me too! XD (I just wasn't gonna admit it, but since you went first...)