Gene Zajac, of South Bass Island, highly regarded as our Village Astronomer, presents some fantastic data on the space missions of three satellites.
Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in September, 1977, making this their 40th anniversary. V-1 is 20.6 billion miles away from Earth; it is our farthest satellite from Earth. Amazingly, it is 139.3 times farther from the sun than Earth. Reaching another star would take 40,000 years! It’s twin, V-2, is 17.3 billion miles away! Voyager 2 visited all four of the largest planets.
This week the Cassini space satellite at Saturn will end its 20-year mission, crashing into Saturn. It completed 293 orbits of Saturn, providing us with incredible pictures of its moon, the complicated ring system, and wonderful pictures of Saturn’s surface! Cassini’s final 22 orbits involved crossing the ring plane 22 times. The decision to crash the satellite in a specially designed path will prevent it from accidentally crashing into a moon. The moons, Titan and Enceladus, needed protection from Earth contamination. The end of Cassini will occur on Friday, September 15th, at approximately 7:30 am. Congratulation to both satellite teams for their excellent work with these two missions. The incredible pictures are courtesy of the Jet Propulsion Lab/NASA.