Learn about the Voyager 2 mission to Saturn. Also learn about the goals of the Voyager 2 mission on Saturn.
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August 25th, 1981 and Voyager 2 arrived at Saturn. The spacecraft had journeyed a billion miles from earth in four years. Voyager 1, in its November 1980 encounter first revealed the beauty and complexity of the ringed planet and its family of satellites. Now Voyager 2 will explore specific targets in Saturn’s realm. This computer simulated film shows a time condensed view of Voyager 2’s tour of the system. This is Voyager 2 on its approach as the spacecraft’s cameras and other instruments scanned the planet and most of its 17 known moons. The ultraviolet spectrometer instrument looks at regions around the sun, lit and dark—of the planet, studying emission of ultraviolet radiation. The instrument’s field of view is represented by the rectangle moving up and down the northern limb as it searches for Aurora in the upper atmosphere of Saturn. As the spacecraft approaches Saturn, it performs a roll turn to sample the environment around the planet. Voyager 2 is extensively reprogrammed in flight, based upon the scientific discoveries of its twin spacecraft. Saturn’s rings are targeted for special study during Voyager 2’s approach. Sections of the braided F ring are studied from different point of view to create three-dimensional pictures of the strands of the ring. Dark, spoke-like features in the B ring are photographed as they move around the planet. Atmospheric activity in Saturn’s cloud tops is monitored. Voyager 2 flies above the ring plane and crosses the plane just once after its closest approach to Saturn. One important size objective is the photo polar riveter observation of the—of a star by the rings. Light from the star Delta Scorpii is measured as it flashes through the rings and the shadow of Saturn. The two and a quarter hour experiment provided information on the number of ringlets, their densities and widths. The infrared interferometer measures changes in the temperature of the moon Titus as it moves into Saturn’s shadow. The circle around the moon represents the instrument’s field of view. The rate at which Titus cools as it moves out of the sunlight provides clues to the composition and the history of the icy moon. Voyager 2 now moves to its closest approach to Saturn, flying 63,000 miles above the cloud tops, the spacecraft moves into the shadow of the planet. The earth and sun disappear from view. Flying down and through the ring plane in the famed G ring, Voyager’s radio voice is cut off by the planet. Then it’s heard again as the—to resume communication with earth. High resolution photographs of the planets and satellites are assembled from mosaics of images covering separate areas of each target. From a distance of about 58,000 miles, Voyager’s cameras can post a four-image mosaic of Titus. In the early hours of August 26, 1981, Voyager 2 left the Saturn, Voyager 2 flew almost 2 billion miles on a four and a half year journey to Uranus, which was encountered in January of 1986. Three years and one and a half billion miles more, took the spacecraft to Neptune in August 1989, completing Voyager’s tour of the giant outer planets.