Friday, August 21, 2009

Two Decades Later: Voyager 1 Flyby of Triton, August 21, 1989

"Aug. 21, 1989: Voyager 2 Reaches Triton"
This Day in Tech, Wired (August 21, 2009)

"1989: Twelve years and one day after liftoff, Voyager 2 reaches Triton, the largest of Neptune's eight moons and the coldest, most unusual satellite in our solar system.

"Launched from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 20, 1977, Voyager 2, as the name suggests, was the second of two identical deep-space probes originally dispatched by NASA to gather data on Jupiter and Saturn. Their primary mission completed, Voyager 2 continued on to make observations of Uranus and Neptune, while Voyager 1 hightailed it toward the edge of the solar system. Voyager 2’s flyby of Triton was the spacecraft's last contact with a major heavenly body before heading off in the direction of Voyager 1 and interstellar space...."

That was 20 years ago, today. This short Wired article gives a brief overview of the Voyager 1 flyby of Triton and the two Voyager missions. A day over 32 years after Voyager 1's launch, both spacecraft are still active, coasting through the outer parts of our sun's heliopause, and expected to keep sending data until 2025.

NASA has a bit more information about Triton: "Neptune: Moons: Triton;" a more complete description of that color image displayed by Wired; and a 26-image gallery, including a few artistic composites and quite a number of images.

Including this color image, which seems to be the original of Wired's version:

"PIA00317: Global Color Mosaic of Triton "

"Global color mosaic of Triton, taken in 1989 by Voyager 2 during its flyby of the Neptune system. Color was synthesized by combining high-resolution images taken through orange, violet, and ultraviolet filters; these images were displayed as red, green, and blue images and combined to create this color version. With a radius of 1,350 (839 mi), about 22% smaller than Earth's moon, Triton is by far the largest satellite of Neptune. It is one of only three objects in the Solar System known to have a nitrogen-dominated atmosphere (the others are Earth and Saturn's giant moon, Titan)...."

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