Spaaaaace: Voyager Leaves the Solar System

Image from NASA. Not the best impression to send to another species

Licking, eating, and drinking. This is one of the images inside of Voyager 1, a spacecraft launched by NASA in 1977. NASA has received confirmation that Voyager has reached the edge of the solar system, becoming the first man made object to do so.

Voyager's primary missions of analyzing the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the early 80s. In the 90s, Voyager pointed itself back towards earth and captured the now famous Pale Blue Dot photo, showing our planet in all of us nothingness amongst the vastness of space. How many electronic devices do have that still work after all of that time? Who knows what Voyager will accomplish next?

Voyager is well prepared for anything interesting that it may bump into. Wonder how we will communicate? By using science that any space fearing civilization would need to know. For example, the plaque adorning the spacecraft can be translated in the following way:

The key to translating the plaque lies in understanding the breakdown of the most common element in the universe - hydrogen. This element is illustrated in the left-hand corner of the plaque in schematic form showing the hyperfine transition of neutral atomic hydrogen. Anyone from a scientifically educated civilization having enough knowledge of hydrogen would be able to translate the message

All of the other information, including greetings in multiple languages and scenes from Earth, is encoded on 12-inch gold-plated copper discs. As described, "each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per second. "

If we launched a probe now, would it contain a giant iPod? And would that iPod travel so far that it becomes reprogrammed by another species and eventually becomes self aware? That's exactly what happened with the Voyager spacecraft in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Check out the film clip below of Captain Kirk making the discovery:

#ScienceLooksGood: Shuttle in NYC, Venus Transit

One reason that I blog about science and technology is so that it can be accessible to everyone. Photos are a great way to communicate the complexity of science without dipping too far into the details. Check out these beautiful photos of the Space Shuttle in NYC and Venus overlayed over the Sun!


Shuttle in NYC!

Picture courtesy of

Check out this amazing pic of the Space Shuttle Enterprise near the World Trade Center site.  The Enterprise never actually flew in space, but it was the prototype model that NASA used to run tests and prove the aerodynamics of flight for reentry. It's currently heading on a barge to the Intrepid Museum in midtown NYC.


Venus Transit!

Picture and video courtesy of Universe Today

This photo is a compilation of several photos of the planet Venus as it crosses between Earth and the Sun.  Due to the orbits and rotations of both planets, it is extremely rare for Venus to be visible between Earth and the Sun.  As a matter of fact, this will not occur again until 2116. More photos are available from NASA.

Gizmodo has a great article on the importance of the transit of Venus throughout history.  From the article:

Transits of Venus were scientific gold for early astronomers, who used them to derive an accurate measurement of the size of the solar system. By noting the time each planet took to go around the sun, and then crunching that data via methods developed by 17th century mathematician Johannes Kepler, these telescope-equipped boffins could determine each planet's relative distance from the sun, as measured in terms of astronomical units (the distance from the Earth to the Sun). Collecting such data during a transit was the reason Captain Cook was able to travel halfway around the world from London to Tahiti in 1769.