Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Space Travel News .

Voyager 1 Spotted from Earth with NRAO's VLBA and GBT Telescopes
by Staff Writers
Charlottesville VA (SPX) Sep 17, 2013

NRAO's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) telescope catches a glimpse of the signal from Voyager 1's transmitter as seen from more than 11 billion miles away. The slightly oblong shape of the image is a result of the VLBA antenna configuration. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF.

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) and Green Bank Telescope (GBT) spotted the faint radio glow from NASA's famed Voyager 1 spacecraft -- the most distant man-made object.

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the VLBA imaged the signal from Voyager 1's main transmitter after the spacecraft had already passed beyond the edge of the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles from the Sun that surrounds our Solar System.

Using NASA's Deep Space Network, JPL continually tracks Voyager and calculates its position on the sky, which is known as the ephemeris. Since the VLBA has the highest resolution, or ability to see fine detail, of any full-time astronomical instrument, NRAO astronomers believed they could locate Voyager's ephemeris position with unprecedented precision. This is unrelated to Voyager's distance from the Sun or position relative to the heliosphere.

The initial observations, which were made on February 21, placed Voyager very near, but not precisely at its predicted location. The difference was a few tenths of an arcsecond. An arcsecond is the apparent size of a penny as seen from 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) away. The second observations on June 1 produced similar results.

"It is possible that these observations are at the milliarcsecond [one-thousandth of an arcsecond] level, or better," said NRAO scientist Walter Brisken, who led the observations with the VLBA. At 11.5 billion miles -- Voyager's approximate distance at the time of the initial observations -- one milliarcsecond would be roughly 50 miles across.

Voyager's main transmitter shines at a feeble 22 watts, which is comparable to a car-mounted police radio or -- in visible light -- a refrigerator light bulb. Though incredibly weak by the standards of modern wireless communications, Voyager's signal is astoundingly bright when compared to most natural objects studied by radio telescopes.

"The ability to pinpoint the location of Voyager and other spacecraft is critical as we explore the inner Solar System and beyond," said Brisken. "The NRAO's VLBA has the capability to do this vital task with unprecedented precision."

Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977, is now headed away from the Sun at a speed of about 38,000 miles per hour.

In a remarkably sensitive complementary observation, the NRAO's Green Bank Telescope (GBT), which is the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope, easily detected Voyager's signal, picking it out from the background radio noise in less than one second.

"Voyager is the first man-made object to penetrate the interstellar medium, and we really want to be able to receive the data from this new frontier," said NRAO scientist Toney Minter, who oversaw the Green Bank observations. "This information will provide many clues about how the interstellar medium behaves and how the Sun interacts with it."

"NRAO's instruments have the capability to provide the most accurate position information of distant spacecraft like Voyager," said NRAO Director Tony Beasley. "The remarkable sensitivity of GBT and VLBA's sharp vision are essential for discovery but also have unique capabilities that have enabled us to make this contact with one of humanity's most ambitious missions of exploration."

The VLBA is a system of radio antennas located across the United States from Hawaii to St. Croix. The antennas work together as a single telescope nearly 5,000 miles across, giving the VLBA its ability to see fine details. Only seven of the VLBA's full complement of 10 antennas were used to make these observations.

The 100-meter GBT is located in the National Radio Quiet Zone and the West Virginia Radio Astronomy Zone, which protect the incredibly sensitive telescope from unwanted radio interference. The GBT observations were made by NRAO scientists Toney Minter and Frank Ghigo, and Green Bank Director Karen O'Neil.


Related Links
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Voyager at NASA
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

NASA Spacecraft Embarks on Historic Journey Into Interstellar Space
Pasadena CA (JPL) Sep 13, 2013
NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun. New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars. Voyager is in a transitional region immediately out ... read more

Russia launches three communication satellites

Arianespace remains the global launch services leader

Russian space official denies report of problem in Soyuz return

Lockheed Martin Atlas V To Launch Morelos-3 ComSat

Explosive flooding said responsible for distinctive Mars terrain

Upgrade to Mars rovers could aid discovery on more distant worlds

Investigating 'Coal Island' Rock Outcrop

Terramechanics research aims to keep Mars rovers rolling

Sixteen Tons of Moondust

Scientists say water on moon may have originated on Earth

Moon landing mission to use "secret weapons"

NASA launches spacecraft to study Moon atmosphere

New Horizons - Late in Cruise, and a Binary Ahoy

Pluto Science Conference Exceeds Expectations

SciTechTalk: Grab your erasers, there are more moons than we thought

NASA Hubble Finds New Neptune Moon

ESA selects SSTL to design Exoplanet satellite mission

Coldest Brown Dwarfs Blur Lines between Stars and Planets

NASA-funded Program Helps Amateur Astronomers Detect Alien Worlds

Observations strongly suggest distant super-Earth has water atmosphere

RS-25: The Clark Kent of Engines for the Space Launch System

NEXT Provides Lasting Propulsion and High Speeds for Deep Space Missions

Japan's new rocket blasts off in laptop-controlled launch

Proposed Russian spacecraft to have a modern convenience -- a toilet

China civilian technology satellites put into use

China to launch lunar lander by end of year: media

China launches three experimental satellites

Medical quarantine over for Shenzhou-10 astronauts

Take a Virtual, High-Resolution Tour of Vesta

Team Attempts To Restore Communications With Deep Impact

University of Tennessee professor helps to discover near-Earth asteroid is really a comet

NAU-led team discovers comet hiding in plain sight

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement