Voyager 2 is back online and sending data back to the earth


From the craft itself, to what it is doing in space, to the new information is has discovered, join me as we explore how the Voyager 2 is back online and gathering data again! Space is huge, and because of that, we need help exploring it, even when it's just exploring our solar system. It took us an incredible amount of time just to find and understand part of what makes our solar system special. From the 9 planets, to the moons of the planets, to the sun, and more. But to really venture into deep space and understand what's out there, we needed not one, but two probes known as Voyager, Voyager 1 is a probe that humanity sent out to observe the universe at large, and it's currently well past Pluto and has shown us many things about our solar system. In 2017, it was set at around 138 AU's from our planet. AU means "Astronomical Unit", which in this case means the distance from the Earth to the Sun. So 138 AU's means that it's 138 times far than the Earth is from the sun right now. That's a really big number. Over 12 billion miles to be exact. That's the farthest anything from man has traveled in space. One of its crowning achievements was a photograph showing a set of sunbeams, and in one of those sunbeams was earth. It was a dot. A dot in a grander scale photograph of our solar system. That's how small we are in the scale of our system when you look from the outside in, we are a dot. An epic dot, but a dot no doubt. As for Voyager 2, despite it launching before Voyager 1 (by 16 days), it was set on a similar mission to explore the solar system. Albeit via a different route that took it past Neptune and Uranus. The point here is that these two probes are the farthest things that humanity has sent into the solar system. They have traveled incredible distances and are still revealing things about our solar system that continue to both boggle the mind and astound us. Voyager 2 is now in Interstellar Space, a crowning achievement in and of itself. But that doesn't mean it's been all smooth sailing, far from it in certain ways In February 2020, it was noted by NASA that something had gone wrong with Voyager 2, and as such they had problems getting it to work properly. Given that the probe is in space that humanity hasn't touched, and will likely not touch themselves for a long time, this is to be expected. However, a few days after that announcement, they revealed to the world that they had stabilized the problems on the craft and got it backup and working. But what exactly caused the problems of the probe? Well, that would be a failed maneuver. Voyager 2 was supposed to do a rotation move that would shut off some of its instruments and thus conserve power. However, for whatever reason, the probe didn't do it, and because of that, the scientific instruments that were on at the time remained on which made it so that the probe eventually shut down prematurely. Not something you want to happen in the reaches of interstellar space when anything can happen in the blink of an eye. This failure could've been catastrophic, because you see, to ensure that the probe would have a long life in space, it was given the bare essentials in many aspects, including its power supply. Believe it or not, despite being in space for over 42 years the Voyager 2 doesn't have the biggest power supply, it actually uses radioactive fuel to produce heat, and thus power. But to conserve that power, it shuts off non-essential systems when it's not using them. So for the move to fail caused a serious drain in power, and likely sent NASA into quite a frenzy as they tried to make it work once again. Thankfully for them, on February 5th, 2020,they were able to connect with Voyager 2 once again, and confirm that it was up and running and able to continue its scientific mission in regards to examining and studying interstellar space. "Voyager 2 has returned to normal operations following the anomaly on Jan. 25, 2020," NASA officials wrote in a statement. "The five operating science instruments, which were turned off by the spacecraft's fault protection routine, are back on and returning normal science data." To give you some context as to how dramatic that is in terms of time and space. At present, it takes a signal from NASA to the Voyager 2 or vice versa about 17 hours. Which means that Voyager 2 is indeed one of the farthest man-made object in space right now. It's almost as far in space as Voyager 1. And that also means that if NASA asked Voyager 2 something, and it replied, it would take about a day and a half for NASA to get its answer. That makes it 122 times greater in distance from the Earth than the sun is. Or 122 AUs. Before we continue to explore the Voyager 2 and its "rebirth" in space, be sure to like the video and subscribe to the channel, that way you don't miss ANY of our weekly videos! I'm sure at this point you're wondering just how far this can go in terms of Voyager 2 and its mission. After all, it's been out in space for 42 years, surely it has a limit, right? And you are correct. There is indeed a limit to what the Voyager 2 can do (as this glitch in the system has proven definitively), but in terms of how long it can continue in space and collecting data, the over under is about 5 years. But think about that, that's 5 more years of data. That's 5 more years of collecting information about a part of space that humanity hasn't even grasped before, or gotten deep enough scans of before. That five years may seem small in the grand scale of its life, but even one of those years could have a major impact on how we observe the solar system at large. But given its age, you might wonder, "what exactly does it have left to study the universe with?" A good question. At present, (as of March 2020), the Voyager 2 probe has 5 scientific instruments on board that are still functioning, and thus can help in form NASA and others about the universe. It has a device that can scan magnetic fields, it has two instruments that can help figure out things about cosmic rays and particles, and the final two instruments are able to detect and study plasma. "Why are these instruments important?" Well, it's because of where Voyager 2 is, Interstellar Space. While we have some idea of what is going on in our own solar system, once you reach interstellar space, all bets are off. We can look at that region of space via our satellites and probes, but to know what's going on there, you need to have someone or something on the inside. And that is the Voyager probes. There are a lot of questions of what happens in this area of space, mainly because it's directly outside the Heliosphere, or the area of space that our own sun affects and doesn't have another star affecting it. Thus why it's an "in between" area of the galaxy, and space is full of these "dead zones" if you will. Which is why we need to study them. In fact, this was one of the biggest reasons we knew that the Voyager 2 had entered Interstellar Space. As the probe had been studying the particles of the sun, and the cosmic rays of space as it traveled through our solar system. And when it reached interstellar space, the particles given off by the sun plummeted, while the cosmic rays rose in great number. Signifying that the reach of the sun had been outpaced, and the rays that fill up space were now in full view. The probe has done wonders for NASA, but there is a catch to its "fixing", and that is that its timing couldn't have been more perfect. How so? Simple, NASA is looking to make some upgrades, and it can't do that without stopping communication with the probe until 2021. NASA is upgrading the 230-foot-wide (70 meters)radio dish in Australia that mission team members use to send commands to Voyager 2,which again launched in 1977 and entered interstellar space in November 2018. Voyager 2 will be on its own until that work is done in January 2021, though the spacecraft will still be able to beam science data home. This is very important to note for the reason that we outlined earlier. Mainly, the probe is not at full capacity in terms of its power, and this glitch that recently occurred proved that the probe may not be as responsive as it once was. So if something like this happens again, it will be drifting in space on its own for who knows how long until NASA can get this dish up. Despite the potential risks this entails, the team at NASA aren't too worried it appears: "We put the spacecraft back into a state where it will be just fine, assuming that everything goes normally with it during the time that the antenna is down," Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd, who also serves as director of the Interplanetary Network Directorate at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement Wednesday (March 4). "If things don't go normally which is always a possibility, especially with an aging spacecraft then the onboard fault protection that's there can handle the situation," Dodd added. The Australian radio dish is part of the Deep Space Network (DSN), the system NASA uses to communicate with its many space probes. There are three DSN sites one each in California, Spain and Australia. Each site has multiple big antennas. For example, the Australian complex, which lies about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Canberra, also features three 111-foot-wide(34 m) radio dishes. The 111-footers can receive science data, but only the 230-foot one has the special transmitter required to beam commands to Voyager 2, NASA officials said. "But what about other dishes? Surely there has to be something that can contact the probe in the next 11 months, right?" Well no. The California and Spain DSN sites are no help in this regard, either. Voyager 2, which is currently more than 11 billion miles (17 billion kilometers) from Earth, is moving downward relative to our planet's orbital plane and, therefore, can be hailed only from the Southern Hemisphere. So yeah, this is a bit of a sticky wicket despite the good front that NASA is putting on. But this is very much of a "short term goal for a long-term gain". Because as noted, the Voyager 2 is only going to be online for another 5 years at the maximum. But with this new dish, it will help all future plans with probes and satellites and maybe even spacecraft that journey into the reaches of interstellar space. "Obviously, the 11 months of repairs puts more constraints on the other DSN sites," Jeff Berner, the Deep Space Network's chief engineer, said in the same statement. "But the advantage is that when we come back,the Canberra antenna will be much more reliable." "The maintenance is needed to support the missions that NASA is developing and launching in the future, as well as supporting the missions that are operating right now," Dodd said. So what's the best case scenario here? Well, quite simply, the best case plan is that the probe just chugs along in interstellar space for the next 11 months until NASA can get the satellite dish up and operational. Is that likely to happen? The odds are good. A glitch like this hasn't happened to this extent before, and thus, it's plausible that it could just keep going without issue. However, the opposite is also true. This glitch could be a sign of more things to come in terms of issues. It cannot be stated enough that both of the Voyager probes are past their "use by date". The people operating the probes have been improvising in order to keep them operational as they are right now. Which is why Voyager 2 is only running 5 scientific instruments instead of all the ones it has equipped, they need to conserve power. But, if another glitch occurs, then the odds are not good that NASA will be able to save it in time when the 11 months are up, and thus the probe will likely either be lost in some fashion or destroyed. It simply depends on what is going on with the probe when if the next glitch occurs. Should the Voyager 2 be lost, it would be a terrible loss for the scientific community given all that it has offered over the years. And of course, barring some great advancement in technology, it would take an incredibly long time (like 40 years or so) to get another probe or entity to that point where the Voyager 2 died in order to pick up where it left off. Not impossible, just time consuming. Which is another reason why NASA is trying so hard to keep the Voyager 2 alive at all costs. Because if it dies, they'll be stuck in regards to trying to collect more data from that region of space. So it goes without saying that the next 11 months of Voyager 2's journey may just be the most important of its tenure so far. Because it could be a new beginning, or a definitive end. 

Thanks for watching everyone! What did you think of this look at Voyager 2, its reaches into space, and the problems it's been having? Do you think that Voyager 2 will last much longer? Or do you think that it'll burn out within the next year? Let me know in the comments below, I'll see you next time.

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