Uranus and Neptune are Actually Pretty Much the Same Color

Scientists reprocessed Voyager 2 images to get the "true" colors of Uranus and Neptune. Turns out they're a pretty blueish-green. Courtesy NASA/Irwin, et al, Anton Pozdnyakov.
Scientists reprocessed Voyager 2 images to get the "true" colors of Uranus and Neptune. Turns out they're a pretty blueish-green. Courtesy NASA/Irwin, et al, Anton Pozdnyakov.

In the late 1980s, the Voyager 2 spacecraft snapped the “canonical” up-close images of Uranus and Neptune. In those views, Uranus was a pretty greenish-blue and Neptune appeared a deep azure color. It turns out that both planets are pretty close in color: a greenish-blue more akin to Uranus’s appearance.

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Voyager 1 Has Another Problem With its Computer System

For more than 46 years, the Voyager 1 probe has been traveling through space. On August 25th, 2012, it became the first spacecraft to cross the heliopause and enter interstellar space. Since then, mission controllers have maintained contact with the probe as part of an extended mission, which will last until the probe’s radioisotopic thermoelectric generators (RTGs) finally run out. Unfortunately, the Voyager 1 probe has been showing its age and signs of wear and tear, which is unavoidable when you’re the farthest spacecraft from Earth.

This includes issues with some of the probe’s subsystems, which have been a bit buggy lately. For instance, engineers at NASA recently announced that they were working to resolve an error with the probe’s flight data system (FDS). This system consists of three onboard computers responsible for communicating with another of Voyager 1’s subsystems, known as the telemetry modulation unit (TMU). As a result, while the spacecraft can receive and execute commands sent from Earth, it cannot send any science or engineering data back.

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Oops. NASA Accidentally Points Voyager 2’s Antenna Away from Earth, Temporarily Losing Contact

An artist concept depicting one of NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft, humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft. Voyager 2 just lost contact with Earth while Voyager 1 is still reporting back. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
An artist concept depicting one of NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft, humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft. Voyager 2 just lost contact with Earth while Voyager 1 is still reporting back. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s every space mission’s nightmare: losing contact with the spacecraft. In the best case, you recover it right away. Worst case, you never hear from your hardware again. On July 21, controllers lost contact with Voyager 2, out in the depths of space. Now they’re waiting for a reset to catch Voyager 2’s next message when it “phones home”. (Update: on August 2, NASA announced via its Twitter account that it has received a “heartbeat” carrier signal from the spacecraft.)

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Edward Stone Has Been the Voyagers’ Project Scientist for 50 Years. He Just Retired

Artist's concept of Voyager 1 in interstellar space. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Edward Stone is retiring after 50 years as Project Scientist for the Voyager mission. The twin spacecraft revolutionized our understanding of our Solar System, and Stone was along for the ride every step of the way. Both spacecraft are still going, travelling deeper into interplanetary space, and still sending data home.

But after a long and rewarding career full of achievements and recognition, Stone is moving on.

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Problem Solved! Voyager 1 is no Longer Sending Home Garbled Data!

Voyager 1
Artist's concept of NASA's Voyager spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Earlier this year, the teams attached to the Voyager 1 mission noticed that the venerable spacecraft was sending weird readouts about its attitude articulation and control system (called AACS, for short). The data it’s providing didn’t really reflect what was actually happening onboard. That was the bad news. The good news was that it didn’t affect science data-gathering and transmission. And, the best news came this week: team engineers have fixed the issue with the AACS and the data are flowing normally again.

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Voyager 1 is Sending Home Strange Telemetry Data

Old computer systems have a lot of wacky ways to fail. Computers that are constantly blasted by radiation have even more wacky ways to fail. Combine those two attributes, and eventually, you’re bound to have something happen. It certainly seems to have with Voyager 1. The space probe, which has been in active service for NASA for almost 45 years, is sending back telemetry data that doesn’t make any sense. 

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The Only Radio Antenna Capable of Communicating with Voyager 2 Came Back Online During Repairs and Upgrades. Contact Re-established

Crews conduct critical upgrades and repairs to the 70-meter-wide (230-foot-wide) radio antenna Deep Space Station 43 in Canberra, Australia. In this image, one of the antenna's white feed cones (which house portions of the antenna receivers) is being moved by a crane. Credit: CSIRO

“Voyager 2, this is Earth calling. Do you read?”

Last week, the answer was finally “yes.” And thankfully, after eight months of no communications, Voyager2 seems to be just fine.

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The Pale Blue Dot: Now New and Improved

This updated version of the iconic "Pale Blue Dot" image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft uses modern image-processing software and techniques to revisit the well-known Voyager view while attempting to respect the original data and intent of those who planned the images. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Thirty years have now passed since the Voyager 1 spacecraft snapped one of the most iconic and memorable pictures in spaceflight history. Known as the “Pale Blue Dot,” the heart-rending view shows planet Earth as a single, bright blue pixel in the vastness of space, as seen from the outer reaches of the solar system.

Now, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have provided a new and improved version, using state of the art image-processing software and techniques to reprocess the thirty-year-old image. JPL software engineer and image processor Kevin Gill, whose images we feature often on Universe Today, led the effort.

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Voyager 2 Went Into Fault Protection Mode, But Engineers Brought it Back Online

Voyager 2. Credit: NASA
Artist's impression of the Voyager 2 space probe. Credit: NASA

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft went into fault protection mode on Tuesday January 28th. The fault protection routines automatically protect the spacecraft in harmful conditions. Both Voyagers have these routines programmed into their systems.

After it happened, NASA engineers were still in communication with the spacecraft and receiving telemetry.

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What Voyager 2 Learned After Spending a Year in Interstellar Space

An artist concept depicting one of NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft, humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft. Voyager 2 just lost contact with Earth while Voyager 1 is still reporting back. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
An artist concept depicting one of NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft, humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft. Voyager 2 just lost contact with Earth while Voyager 1 is still reporting back. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Only two of humanity’s spacecraft have left the Solar System: NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Voyager 1 left the heliosphere behind in 2012, while Voyager 2 did the same on Nov. 5th, 2018. Now Voyager 2 has been in interstellar space for one year, and five new papers are presenting the scientific results from that one year.

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