CSIRO supports NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft as it enters interstellar space
Australia’s pre-eminent national science organization, CSIRO, is supporting NASA as its Voyager 2 space probe enters interstellar space.
Voyager 2 is approximately 18 billion kilometres from Earth. Voyager mission scientists have been closely monitoring the spacecraft for signs that it has exited the ‘heliosphere’, a protective bubble created by our Sun as we move through our galaxy.
CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope has joined NASA’s Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), part of NASA’s Deep Space Network, to receive unique and historic data from Voyager 2.
This provides a clearer picture of the environment through which Voyager 2 is travelling. The telescope will continue to receive downlink data into early 2019. Because of Voyager 2’s location and distance from Earth, CDSCC and the Parkes telescope are the only facilities in the world that are capable of having contact with the spacecraft.
Voyager 2 isn’t able to record its data onboard – it transmits it directly from the instruments back to Earth – making it essential to receive as much of this vital data as possible.
Susan Lucas-Conwell, Executive Vice President CSIRO US, said: “We’re proud to support NASA to capture this once in a lifetime opportunity. “Our long-standing relationship with NASA stretches back more than 50 years, and includes the landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity and, almost fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 Moon landing.”
CSIRO Director of Astronomy and Space Science Dr Douglas Bock said: “The Parkes telescope will be tracking Voyager 2 for 11 hours a day while the spacecraft is observable from Parkes. CDSCC’s DSS43 will also track Voyager 2 for a number of hours both before and after Parkes, expanding the available observation time. “This is a highlight of CSIRO’s decades’ worth of experience operating large, complex spacecraft tracking and radio astronomy infrastructure.”
Voyager 1 crossed into interstellar space in 2012, while Voyager 2 has been on a different trajectory through our solar system.
On its journey, Voyager 2 has famously flown past Jupiter (in 1979), Saturn (in 1981), Uranus (in 1986) and Neptune (in 1989), returning valuable images and data. For NASA’s latest mission updates on the progress of Voyager 2 visit voyager.jpl.nasa.gov.