August 20 – Launch of Voyager 2

Voyager 2 launched today in 1977, which I vaguely remember was the year I bought my electric guitar. I was a big fan of Queen and Deep Purple at the time so it had to be done.  The guitar lasted about a year (after which I moved onto the drums) unlike Voyager 2, which is still going strong today, travelling at over 15km/second about 108 AU from my laptop (one AU is the Earth – Sun distance) in the approximate direction of “nowhere in particular”.

Launch of Voyager 2.

Launch of Voyager 2.

Voyager’s trajectory gives one a good idea of just how empty interstellar space is.  It will be 40,000 years before the intrepid craft gets within astronomical spitting distance (10 trillion miles) of its first star.  This will be Ross 248, a red dwarf in Andromeda, too dim, at 12% the mass of the Sun, to be seen from Earth with the naked eye.  It will then be another 250,000 years or so before Voyager reaches anywhere anyone has actually heard of, when it passes Sirius.

Highlights of the trip (so far) make most other journeys look a little bland.  Voyager 2 has visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and discovered three Jovian satellites.

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2001 – Death of English astronomer Fred Hoyle.

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