45 years ago, on September 5, 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 to observe the outer planets of our solar system in hopes of gathering more data and images of those planets.
The mission was so affected by the rare occurrence of the alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto that the gravity of Jupiter would change Voyager 1’s trajectory to move towards Saturn. This rare opportunity only comes once every 175 years.
In the original plan, the trajectory would change again, where Voyager 1 would travel from Uranus to Neptune and then to Pluto. However, due to time and budget constraints, this plan to fly past all of these planets was scrapped in favor of a scaled-down mission to just Jupiter and Saturn.
Voyager 1 was equipped with eleven different tools and instruments to observe the planets as it moved past them. These tools included an imaging system, a radio science system, an infrared interferometer spectrometer, an ultraviolet spectrometer, a magnetometer, a plasma spectrometer, a low energy charged particle device, a cosmic ray detection system, a planetary radio astronomy investigator (to study emissions off Jupiter), a photopolarimeter and a plasma wave system.
These are the basic tools needed to gather information about a planet, such as: B. Surface material, atmosphere composition and magnetic field.
The first image captured showed the Earth and Moon from a distance of 7.25 million miles.
On December 10, 1977, the spacecraft entered the asteroid belt in our solar system. It left the Belt on September 8, 1977. From there it was a large distance from Earth and Jupiter. It arrived at Jupiter on January 6, 1979 and took over 19,000 images there. It also confirmed the existence of a small faint ring around Jupiter.
The spacecraft began its long-term survey of Saturn on August 22, 1980 and passed by the planet on November 12, 1980, 114,500 miles from the planet’s center.
Due to the interest of many scientists, Voyager 1 was used for a close flyby of Saturn’s largest moon Titan. During its observing period, it took 16,000 images of Saturn and its rings before exiting the system.
On New Year’s Day 1990, Voyager 1 officially entered interstellar space, making it the most distant man-made object. At this point, the vehicle’s cameras and most instruments were disabled. On August 25, 2012 it passed the heliopause.
The heliopause is the boundary behind the bubble-like region created by the sun. The heliopause is estimated to be 150 million kilometers from the center of the Sun.
Now, Voyager 1 is an estimated 14.6 billion miles from Earth, traveling at a speed of 38,000 miles per hour. The spacecraft data takes nearly 22 hours to reach Earth. The spacecraft is expected to run out of power in 2025 when Voyager 1 loses contact and flies into the void of space.
However, it still has one purpose. There is a gold disc on the ship that scientists have added in case intelligent life finds Voyager 1. The recording contains information about the earth such as music, environmental sounds and greetings in 55 languages. Instructions for playing the record are written on it, as well as the position of the earth in our solar system.