Astronomy Picture of the Day
April 5, 2014

Deep Blue (Part IV)
Deep Blue (Part IV)

Credits: NASA/JPL - Voyager 2 Project - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

This is no "Good-bye", but a true and final "Farewell": the NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft's is leaving forever the Gas-Giant Planet Neptune and this picture shows us a "post-encounter" view of Neptune's South Pole, as the Spacecraft sped away on a Southward Trajectory. Some white and bright Clouds are well visible slightly to the left (Sx) of the center of the frame, very close to the Terminator Line. The NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft is currently flying in the so-called "Heliosheath", such as the Outermost Layer of the Heliosphere: that Region of the very Outer Solar System where the Solar Wind is slowed by the pressure of Interstellar Gas. On the other hand, the NASA - Voyager 1 Spacecraft, since August, 25, 2012, is already flying in the Interstellar Space.

Both Voyagers, according to NASA, have enough electrical power and thruster fuel to fully operate at least until the AD 2020. By that time, the NASA - Voyager 1 Spacecraft will be about 12,4 Billion Miles from the Sun, while the NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft shall be approx. 10,5 Billion Miles away.

Eventually, both Voyagers will pass other Stars. For instance, in about 40.000 years, the NASA - Voyager 1 Spacecraft will drift within about 1,6 Light-Years (such as approx. 9,3 Trillion Miles) from AC+79 3888: a Star located in the Constellation of Camelopardalis, which is heading toward the Constellation of Ophiuchus. On the other hand, and also in about 40.000 years, the NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft will pass about 1,7 Light-Years (such as approx. 9,7 Trillion Miles) from the Star known as "Ross 248" and then, in approx. 296.000 years, it will pass 4,3 Light-Years (such as approx. 25 Trillion Miles) from Sirius: the brightest Star of the Sky.

In fact (and in the end), both Voyagers are destined to wander in the Milky Way, perhaps eternally (and unless one - or both - of the Probes end up impacting against an - obviously, so far - unknown Celestial Object - but the possibilities that such an impact might actually occur are, at least, astronomically small).

This frame (which is an Original NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft Natural Color frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 01539) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, magnified to aid visibility of the details and then re-colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the Gas-Giant Planet Neptune), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among others, the existence of different Elements present in the Atmosphere of Neptune, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

Note: it is possible (but we, as IPF, have no way to be one-hundred-percent sure of such a circumstance), that the actual luminosity of Neptune - as it is in this frame - would appear, to an average human eye, way lower than it has been shown (or, better yet: interpreted) here.

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