Voyager mission comes to UWO-FC

Lydia Westedt, News Reporter

On Nov. 5, astrophysicist and co-investigator for Voyager 1 and 2 and other NASA space missions, Dr. Frances Bagenal, made an appearance at the UW Oshkosh-Fox Cities campus to introduce the PBS movie “The Farthest: Voyager in Space.”

The movie, now available on Netflix, was released for the 40th anniversary of the Voyager 1 and 2 in 2017. Now 42 years old, the Voyager 1 and 2 have long outlived their expectations, sending stellar images and data insights down to Earth.

On Nov. 5, 2018, Voyager 2 became the second human-made object to cross the sun’s magnetic field where the solar wind collides with the interstellar plasma, according to CNN. This barrier, which is more than 11 billion miles from the sun, was first crossed by Voyager 1 in 2012.

Voyager 1 and 2 are continuing to reach milestones and give informative data, all with 1977 technology.
Alan Peche, director of the Barlow Planetarium at UWO-FC, explained that Voyager 1 and 2 were sent out with encoder technology that everybody who owns a CD player now uses.

“For them, it allowed better handling of data than ever before,” Peche said. “All this stuff, especially with NASA, trickles down to the public. It is one of their missions to get that technology down and have people use it elsewhere.”

The technology on Voyager 1 and 2 pales in comparison to today’s technology. An iPhone 5 has more computing power than the Voyager’s technology, according to NASA.

Despite its old technology, Voyager 2 was the first to study Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune at close distances and is credited with discovering 10 new moons and two new rings on Uranus as well as discovering Jupiter’s 14th moon.

Voyager 2 also discovered five moons, four rings and the “Great Dark Spot” around Neptune, according to NASA.
Peche said Voyager 2 has also sent some great images of the planets back to Earth.

“On Voyager 2’s last trip, they put it right over the clouds of Neptune. … They could make this decision to go just above the cloud tops and see what happens and what kind of images they could get, so that’s pretty exciting.”

Bagenal began working on the Voyager mission while in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to NASA.

After graduating from MIT in 1981, Bagenal spent five years doing research at Imperial College in her home country of England before returning to the U.S. to teach at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she is now.

In addition to working on Voyager 1 and 2, Bagenal has also worked on Deep Space 1, which encountered an asteroid and comet at close range, and Galileo which went to Jupiter. She also worked on New Horizons, which went to Pluto.

Peche said Bagenal is currently working on the Juno spacecraft, which is orbiting Jupiter right now.

“It’s really a pleasure having somebody like that in the community and doing community programs, especially in today’s world where we look at increasing the number of women in STEM,” Peche said.

“I think it’s important for female students of any age to see what is possible … and the power of being part of a time like that. … It’s really a great example of what could happen and what should happen more,” Peche said.