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Born on this day
Lloyd Stowell Shapley
Lloyd Stowell Shapley is a distinguished American mathematician, economist and a Nobel Prize winner.
22nd week in year
2 June 2019

Important eventsBack

Voyager 2 spacecraft makes its closest approach to Saturn25.8.1981

Wikipedia (14 Apr 2014, 15:18)

Voyager 2 is a 722 kg (1,592 lb) space probe launched by NASA on August 20, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and eventually interstellar space. It was actually launched before Voyager 1, but Voyager 1 moved faster and eventually passed it. It has been operating for 36 years, 7 months and 25 days as of 14 April 2014; the spacecraft still receives and transmits data via the Deep Space Network.

At a distance of 104.65 AU (1.566×1010 km) as of 14 April 2014 from Earth, it is one of the most distant human made objects (along with Voyager 1, Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11). Voyager 2 is part of the Voyager program with its identical sister craft Voyager 1, and is in extended mission, tasked with locating and studying the boundaries of the Solar System, including the Kuiper belt, the heliosphere and interstellar space.

The primary mission ended December 31, 1989 after encountering the Jovian system in 1979, Saturnian system in 1981, Uranian system in 1986, and the Neptunian system in 1989. It is still the only spacecraft to have visited the two outer giant planets Uranus and Neptune. The probe is now moving at a velocity of 15.428 km/s relative to the Sun.


The closest approach to Saturn

While passing behind Saturn (as viewed from Earth), Voyager 2 probed Saturn's upper atmosphere with its radio link to gather information on atmospheric temperature and density profiles. Voyager 2 found that at the uppermost pressure levels (seven kilopascals of pressure), Saturn's temperature was 70 kelvins (−203 °C), while at the deepest levels measured (120 kilopascals) the temperature increased to 143 K (−130 °C). The north pole was found to be 10 kelvins cooler, although this may be seasonal (see also Saturn Oppositions).

After the fly-by of Saturn, the camera platform of Voyager 2 locked up briefly, putting plans to officially extend the mission to Uranus and Neptune in jeopardy. Fortunately, the mission's engineers were able to fix the problem (caused by an overuse that temporarily depleted its lubricant), and the Voyager 2 probe was given the go-ahead to explore the Uranian system.

   
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