Beyond Our Solar System
September 3, 1977: Voyager 1 Launched
The Voyager 1 spacecraft is a 1,590 lb. (722 kilograms) space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and interstellar medium. Operating for 36 years as of 5 September 2013, the spacecraft communicates with the Deep Space Network to receive routine commands and return data.
At a distance of about 125 astronomical units from the Sun as of August 2013it is the farthest man-made object from Earth and is currently traveling in a previously unstudied region of space. It is still unclear whether this region is part of interstellar space or an area within the Solar System. The amount of power available to the probe has decreased over time, and will be no longer be able to power any single instrument by 2025.
It now speeding outward from the Sun at nearly one million miles per day, a rate that would take it from Los Angeles to New York in less than four minutes.
On March 20, 2013, it was announced that Voyager 1 may have been the first man-made object to leave the Solar System, on August 25, 2012. However, it is still under debate as to whether the new region is interstellar space or an unknown region of the Solar System.
Voyager 1 is not heading towards any particular star, but in about 40,000 years it will pass within 1.6 light years of the star Gliese 445, which is at present in the constellation Camelopardalis.
The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records which were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft and contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.
The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan. Sagan and his associates assembled 116 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, thunder and animals (including the songs of birds and whales).
To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, spoken greetings in fifty-six languages and printed messages from USA president Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim.
The collection of images includes many photographs and diagrams both in black and white and color. The first images are of scientific interest, showing mathematical and physical quantities, the Solar System and its planets, DNA, and human anatomy and reproduction.
Contents of the Voyager Golden Record
Care was taken to include not only pictures of humanity, but also some of animals, insects, plants and landscapes. Images of humanity depict a broad range of cultures.
The musical selection is also varied, featuring artists such as Beethoven, Guan Pinghu, Mozart, Stravinsky, Blind Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry and Kesarbai Kerkar.
The 116 images are encoded in analogue form and composed of 512 vertical lines. The remainder of the record is audio, designed to be played at 16⅔ revolutions per minute. A stylus was included with the record 😉