NASA

While NASA’s Voyager I suffers a malfunction, take a look at some of the stunning photos it sent

NASA recently provided an update on the status of its Voyager I probe, which appears to have suffered technical errors with one of its instruments. As described by the agency, Voyager I sends invalid telemetry data, which appears to be randomly generated, causing technicians to have trouble determining what is happening on board. More precisely, the problem appears to have arisen from Voyager I’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS), which allows the probe to maintain its orientation. It also ensures that the probe’s antenna is pointed precisely at Earth for data transfer.

According to NASA, Voyager I, which launched on September 5, 1997, is located about 13.3 billion miles from Earth and takes about two days to send and receive a response from the probe. A true model of endurance, the spacecraft has been operational for the past 45 years, transmitting massive amounts of data during its lifetime. Let’s take a look at some of the many amazing photos that Voyager I’s camera has beamed back.

photographing Jupiter

(Photo of Jupiter taken by Voyager I; Image: NASA)

The photo above is one of the 19,000 images Voyager took as I flew past Jupiter. It began photographing the gas giant in January 1979 and completed its observations of the planet in early April. The probe was actually launched with the intention of studying Jupiter and its neighbor Saturn, but its mission was extended well beyond its estimated lifespan. After the expansion, Voyager continued to explore the icy giants of our solar system – Uranus and Neptune. NASA says that both Voyager I and its twin Voyager II, also launched the same year but before the first, took a total of more than 33,000 photos of Jupiter and five of its moon.

Beautiful Saturn

(Saturn and its beautiful rings captured by Voyager I; Image: NASA)

This photo is not a painting, but the second largest planet in our solar system: Saturn. The gas giant and its signature ring are visible in its full glory with two of its many Moons lingering in the dark. Like Jupiter, Saturn was also extensively studied by Voyager I after its encounter with the planet began in November 1980. According to NASA, both Voyagers encountered the gas giant nine months apart.

Mysteriously icy Uranus

(Uranus; Image: NASA)

The above image shows Uranus in its true and false color and was captured by the Voyager spacecraft in January 1986 at a distance of 9.1 million kilometers. Voyager twins have allowed us to expand our knowledge of far-fetched planets like Uranus and Neptune. Voyager II, in particular, was much more involved in photographing the outer planets, but it was Voyager I that in 2012 became the first man-made object to enter interstellar space.

First close-up of Neptune’s Great Dark Spot

(Neptune’s Great Dark Spot accompanied by high-altitude white clouds; Image: NASA)

Although the focus is on Voyager I, it was its twin brother who became the first spacecraft to observe the planet Neptune. The probe encountered the planet in the summer of 1989 and passed about 4,950 kilometers above Neptune’s north pole. Voyager II’s photography allowed scientists to get a close-up view of Neptune’s large dark spot.

The ‘light blue dot’

(Earth as observed from interstellar space; Image: NASA)

This photo is arguably one of the most iconic images in the history of planetary exploration. It was captured by Voyager I at the request of Carl Sagan, one of the most famous astrophysicists. Sagan had asked NASA to point Voyager I’s camera at the camera one last time before the mission team turned off the probe’s camera to save power for other mission-critical operations. This decision led to this statue that came to be known as the ‘Pale Blue Dot’. The photo, taken 6.4 billion km from our planet, shows Earth the size of a dot suspended in a sunbeam.


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