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Senin, 02 Mei 2011

Voyager set to enter interstellar space

This graphic shows the relative positions of NASA’s most distant spacecraft in early 2011, looking at the solar system from the side. Voyager 1 is the most distant spacecraft, about 17.5 billion kilometers (10.9 billion miles) away from the sun at a northward angle. Pioneer 10, the next most distant, is about 15.4 billion kilometers (9.6 billion miles) away from the sun on the opposite side of the solar system. Voyager 2 is about 14.2 billion kilometers (8.8 billion miles) away from the sun on a southward trajectory, on the same side of the solar system as Voyager 1. Pioneer 11 is about 12.4 billion kilometers (7.8 billion miles) away from the sun. New Horizons is about 3 billion kilometers (2 billion miles) away from the sun, on its way to Pluto.
( -- More than 30 years after they left Earth, NASA's twin Voyager probes are now at the edge of the solar system. Not only that, they're still working. And with each passing day they are beaming back a message that, to scientists, is both unsettling and thrilling. 
The message is, "Expect the unexpected."
"It's uncanny," says Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Project Scientist since 1972. "Voyager 1 and 2 have a knack for making discoveries."
Today, April 28, 2011, NASA held a live briefing to reflect on what the Voyager mission has accomplished--and to preview what lies ahead as the probes prepare to enter the realm of in our galaxy.

The adventure began in the late 1970s when the probes took advantage of a rare alignment of outer planets for an unprecedented Grand Tour. Voyager 1 visited Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 flew past Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. (Voyager 2 is still the only probe to visit Uranus and Neptune.)
When pressed to name the top discoveries from those encounters, Stone pauses, not for lack of material, but rather an embarrassment of riches. "It's so hard to choose," he says.
Stone's partial list includes the discovery of volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io; evidence for an ocean beneath the icy surface of Europa; hints of methane rain on Saturn's moon Titan; the crazily-tipped magnetic poles of Uranus and Neptune; icy geysers on Neptune's moon Triton; planetary winds that blow faster and faster with increasing distance from the sun.
"Each of these discoveries changed the way we thought of other worlds," says Stone.
In 1980, Voyager 1 used the gravity of Saturn to fling itself slingshot-style out of the plane of the . In 1989, Voyager 2 got a similar assist from Neptune. Both probes set sail into the void.


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