Voyager spacecraft continue their interstellar journey with help from Hubble Space Telescope

Artist’s illustrationn of Voyager 1 looking back on the Solar System. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI)
Artist’s illustrationn of Voyager 1 looking back on the Solar System. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI)

There have been many incredible planetary missions over the past several decades, from as close as our Moon to the outer reaches of the Solar System. Right now, there are robotic explorers at Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Ceres, and out past Pluto. But there are two more which have travelled even farther, to the most distant fringes of the Solar System, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Although they were launched way back in 1977, they are still active today, studying the region where our planetary system “ends” and interstellar space begins. Now, the Hubble Space Telescope is being used to help provide a “road map” for their future paths forward.

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The Day the Earth Smiled – July 19, 2013

Credit: The Day the Earth Smiled
Credit: The Day the Earth Smiled

Something remarkable is going to happen next Friday, July 19, 2013. On that day, the Earth is going to have its picture taken, but not just from an orbiting satellite, from Saturn. The Cassini spacecraft, still orbiting the ringed planet, will take images of Saturn and all of its rings during an eclipse of the Sun. This has been done twice before, but this time, the view will include another tiny, far-away blue speck – the Earth, in natural colour.

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Planetary archive: Jupiter, Europa and Io

Europa floats in front of Jupiter's turbulent clouds below. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Europa floats in front of Jupiter’s turbulent clouds below, as seen by Voyager 1 in 1979.
Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

These are a couple of great images from many years ago, taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it passed Jupiter. The first, in dramatic black & white, shows the moon Europa (with its subsurface ocean) passing in front of Jupiter’s turbulent clouds below, including the Great Red Spot on the left. It kind of looks like a Van Gogh painting, but it’s very real.

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