Image compliments of NASA
Voyager 1 was launched September 5, 1977 and was intended to explore the outer solar system. It has completed its mission, providing the only close-up views of Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and their moons. It continues its mission, getting farther and farther from Earth, but continues to send information back to Earth using its radio antenna.
In 1990 it passed Pluto and the outer part of our solar system. At this point, it turned its camera back toward the Earth to take the famous picture of "The Pale Blue Dot".
This picture (below) inspired by Carl Sagan, shows the Earth from the edge of our solar system, 6 Billion kilometers away.
Image compliments of NASA
It was intended to provide a perspective of the Earth from the edge of the Solar System. When compared with galaxies and the rest of space, we now have a very good appreciation of how small our world really is.
Voyager 1 is now headed for interstellar space and will reach the Oort Cloud in approximately 300 years (see below).
Here are some important facts about Voyager 1:
-Voyager 1 has now travelled farther than anyone or anything in history, finally reaching insterstellar space.
-It is travelling at 37 km/s. It acheived this velocity through the gravitional assistance from Saturn and Jupiter.
-It has a small on-board nuclear reactor to power its systems because it is so far from the sun, that solar cells would not be practical.
-It uses plutonium 238 for its thermo-electric generators that will continue to operate until 2025. The half-life of this plutonium isotope is short (only 88 years). Therefore its potential nuclear contamination should diminish reasonably quickly and will not likely contaminate other worlds.
This image shows plutonium 238 glowing under its own heat (image compliments of en.wikipedia.org).
-plutonium 238 is extracted from spent fuel rods of nuclear reactors.
-Voyager 1 carries a gold plated record of the sounds and languages of Earth. It also provides Earth's approximate location in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is intended to provide information on our world and its mission to any alien intelligent species it may encounter in the future (see below).
-currently it is not headed for any particular star system and will likely travel the Milky Way Galaxy forever until it encounters something.
-it now takes 17 hours for the radio signal from Voyager 1 to reach Earth.
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