NASA/JPL, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
What is your favorite planet or star? My favorite star is Sirius
What is your favorite rocket? Falcon 9
Question: Where is the Voyager 1 spacecraft that launched in 1977 now and what cool data has it sent us about space?
Hi, Elijah, thanks for your question! I also really like Sirius! As the brightest star in the night sky (technically a binary star1), created by our almighty God on day four of creation week, it’s one of my all-time favorites.
I also think the Falcon 9 is a really cool rocket. It’s a powerful two-stage (and reusable!) launch vehicle, produced by the aerospace company SpaceX, that can launch astronauts and all sorts of things into orbit. In fact, it’s powerful enough to launch not only big satellites but also tons of essential cargo supplies (like food, water, science equipment, etc.) for the astronauts on the International Space Station!
Now to your question, where is the Voyager 1 spacecraft that launched in 1977 now and what cool data has it sent us about space?
Voyager 1 is definitely a pretty cool spacecraft, mainly because it (along with its companion Voyager 2) has been flying longer than any other spacecraft in history! Launched back in 1977, it successfully made flybys of Jupiter (in 1979) and Saturn (in 1980).2 In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft to venture into “interstellar space” (the area between the stars) and continues to collect data as it travels further into the universe—billions of miles away from the sun!
Today, Voyager 1 amazingly is still communicating with us through NASA’s Deep Space Network,3 receiving commands and transmitting data back to the earth.4 And that data is helping scientists to know more about the nature of energy and radiation in space (which is important for protecting future astronauts!) and to understand the edges of the heliosphere.5
A few of Voyager’s major discoveries include finding a thin ring around Jupiter, two new Jovian moons (Thebe and Metis), and five new moons at Saturn.6 Voyager also took many really cool photos that reveal a lot of amazing details of the moons around Jupiter and Saturn. For instance, images of the moon Io showed active volcanoes spewing material into space!
And on top of all that, in 1990, Voyager’s cameras were pointed backward and captured images of the sun and planets (the first ever “portrait” of our solar system) that arguably became some of the most famous photos of the last century for astronomy. This series of images became commonly known as the “Solar System Family Portrait.”7 This image series also contains the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image, showing the earth as a tiny “dot” within a scattered ray of sunlight. After snapping these photos, Voyager 1 then powered off its cameras forever (to save energy for its long journey ahead).
No doubt, these images give us a great “outside looking in” view of our world and our planetary neighbors in the solar system. But looking at these images, where each planet is shown as just a speck of light in the vastness of space, should ultimately make us stop and marvel at the greatness of our God. Our little “blue dot” planet is orbiting around just one star that exists in a universe that’s full of a countless number of stars and galaxies. In fact, one estimate says there’s (at least) 200 billion trillion stars in the universe.8 That’s 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That’s a lot of zeros!
And from the Bible, we read that our powerful God created and named each one of them.
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. (Psalm 147:4–5)
And we also read,
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3–4)
So, the same God—who created the countless stars by his awesome power—cares for us (on this tiny planet called earth!) and provides salvation for us so we can be reconciled to him for eternity—by the finished work of Jesus Christ!
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
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