25 Out-Of-This-World Photos Captured By NASA’s Voyager Probes

On August 20, 1977, NASA’s Voyager 2 space probe was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Sixteen days later, its twin Voyager 1 was launched. The mission of the Voyager Program was to study the outer planets of the solar system.

Voyager 1’s objectives included flybys of Jupiter, Saturn and Saturn’s large moon, Titan. On August 25, 2012, Voyager 1 crossed became the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space and study the interstellar medium. It is still operational but its mission is expected to end around 2025, when its radioisotope thermoelectric generators will no longer supply enough electric power to operate its scientific instruments.

Voyager 2 also visited Jupiter and Saturn but then continued on to study Uranus and Neptune. It was the first spacecraft — and so far the only — to visit the ice giants. Its primary mission ended after leaving the Neptunian system in 1989, but it continues to communicate with Earth via the Deep Space Network as it studies the outer reaches of the Solar System. It is on its way to interstellar space and will become the first probe to provide direct measurements of the density and temperature of the interstellar plasma.

In celebration of the incredible achievements of the Voyager Program on its 40th anniversary, check out 25 of the most jaw-dropping photos of the outer planets and their moons captured by both Voyager 1 and 2.

(August 25, 1989) Voyager 2 was the first (and, so far, only) spacecraft to fly by the planet Neptune and its two satellites: Triton, the largest, and Nereid. The most obvious feature of the planet is its blue color, the result of methane in the atmosphere. Research continues on Neptune’s two largest satellites and the additional six that were discovered by Voyager 2’s investigation.

This image was returned by the Voyager 2 spacecraft on July 3, 1989, when it was 76 million kilometers (47 million miles) from Neptune. The planet and its largest satellite, Triton, are captured in the field of view of Voyager’s narrow-angle camera through violet, clear and orange filters. Triton appears in the lower right corner at about 5 o’clock relative to Neptune.
Measurements from Voyager images show Triton to be between 1,400 and 1,800 kilometers (about 870 to 1,100 miles) in radius with a surface that is about as bright as freshly fallen snow. Because Triton is barely resolved in current narrow-angle images, it is too early to see features on its surface.
Scientists believe Triton has at least a small atmosphere of methane and possibly other gases. During its closest approach to Triton on August 25, 1989, Voyager provided high-resolution views of the moon’s icy surface and reveal whether Triton’s atmosphere has clouds.
Neptune and Triton following Voyager 2’s 1989 encounter.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Kevin M. Gill
This view of Despina eclipsing and transiting Neptune is composed of four frames captured nine minutes apart on August 24, 1989 from 20:00 to 20:27 through blue, orange, violet, and green filters. In this version, Despina has been brighted substantially to make it easier to spot.
Global color mosaic of Triton, taken in 1989 by Voyager 2 during its flyby of the Neptune system. Color was synthesized by combining high-resolution images taken through orange, violet, and ultraviolet filters; these images were displayed as red, green, and blue images and combined to create this color version.
With a radius of 1,350 (839 mi), about 22% smaller than Earth’s moon, Triton is by far the largest satellite of Neptune. It is one of only three objects in the Solar System known to have a nitrogen-dominated atmosphere (the others are Earth and Saturn’s giant moon, Titan).
This is an image of the planet Uranus taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986.
This view of Uranus was recorded by Voyager 2 on Jan 25, 1986, as the spacecraft left the planet behind and set forth on the cruise to Neptune Voyager was 1 million kilometers (about 600,000 miles) from Uranus when it acquired this wide-angle view. The picture — a color composite of blue, green and orange frames — has a resolution of 140 km (90 mi). The thin crescent of Uranus is seen here at an angle of 153 degrees between the spacecraft, the planet and the Sun. Even at this extreme angle, Uranus retains the pale blue-green color seen by ground-based astronomers and recorded by Voyager during its historic encounter. This color results from the presence of methane in Uranus’ atmosphere; the gas absorbs red wavelengths of light, leaving the predominant hue seen here.
Voyager 2 returned this view of Saturn and its ring system Aug. 11 1981, when the spacecraft was 13.9 million kilometers (8.6 million miles) away and approaching the large, gaseous planet at about l million km. (620,000 mi.) a day. The ring system’s shadow is clearly cast in the equatorial region. Storm clouds and small-scale spots in the mid-latitudes are apparent. The so-called “ribbonlike” feature in the white cloud band marks a high-speed jet at about 47 north; there, the westerly wind speeds are about 150 meters-per-second (330 mph). The banding on this large, gaseous planet extends toward both poles.
This mosaic of Europa, the smallest Galilean satellite, was taken by Voyager 2. This face of Europa is centered at about the 300 degree meridian. The bright areas are probably ice deposits, whereas the darkened areas may be the rocky surface or areas with a more patchy distribution of ice. The most unusual features are the systems of long linear structures that cross the surface in various directions. Some of these linear structures are over 1,000 kilometers long and about 2 or 3 kilometers wide. They may be fractures or faults which have disrupted the surface.
This color composite made from Voyager 2 narrow-angle camera frames shows the Great Red Spot during the late Jovian afternoon. North of the Red Spot lies a curious darker section of the South Equatorial Belt (SEB), the belt in which the Red Spot is located. A bright eruption of material passing from the SEB northward into the diffuse equatorial clouds has been observed on all occasions when this feature passes north of the Red Spot. The remnants of one such eruption are apparent in this photograph. To the lower left of the Red Spot lies one of the three long-lived White Ovals. This photograph was taken on June 29, 1979, when Voyager 2 was over 9 million kilometers (nearly 6 million miles) from Jupiter. The smallest features visible are over 170 kilometers (106 miles) across.
This color picture of Ganymede in the region 30 S 180 W shows features as small as 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) across. Shown is a bright halo impact crater that shows the fresh material thrown out of the crater. In the background is bright grooved terrain that may be the result of shearing of the surface materials along fault planes. The dark background material is the ancient heavily cratered terrain — the oldest material preserved on the Ganymede surface.
Jupiter and Io photographed by the Voyager 2 probe on 9 July 1979.
Jupiter seen by Voyager 1 probe with blue filter. One image was taken every Jupiter day (approximately 10 hours). These pictures were taken from 01/06 to 02/03, 1979 ; and Voyager 1 flew from 58 million to 31 million kilometers from Jupiter during that time. The small, round, dark spots appearing in some frames are the shadows cast by the moons passing between Jupiter and the Sun, while the small, white flashes around the planet, are the moons themselves.
This picture of Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest satellite, was taken by Voyager 1 on the afternoon of March 5, 1979 from a range of 253,000 kilometers (151,800 miles). The picture is centered at 66 south latitude and 3 longitude and shows the south western limb region of Ganymede. The smallest features visible are about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) across. The surface shows numerous impact craters, many of which have extensive bright ray systems. Light bands traversing the surface contain alternating bright and dark lines which probably represent deformation of the icy central material.
Voyager 1 image of Io showing active plume of Loki on limb. Heart-shaped feature southeast of Loki consists of fallout deposits from active plume Pele. The images that make up this mosaic were taken from an average distance of approximately 490,000 kilometers (340,000 miles)
Detail of Jupiter’s atmosphere, as imaged by Voyager 1.
Jupiter’s moon Ganymede.
Voyager 1 took this photo of Jupiter and two of its satellites (Io, left, and Europa) on Feb. 13, 1979. Io is about 350,000 kilometers (220,000 miles) above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot; Europa is about 600,000 kilometers (375,000 miles) above Jupiter’s clouds.
NASA’s Voyager 1 took this high resolution color image of Rhea just before the spacecraft’s closest approach to the Saturnian moon on Nov. 12, 1980 from a range of 128,000 kilometers (79,500 miles).
Voyager 1 image of Saturn from 5.3 million km four days after its closest approach. This perspective allows a view of Saturn looking back towards the sun. The shadow of Saturn can be seen on the rings, and Saturn can be seen through the rings as well. Some of the spoke-like ring features are visible as bright patches.
Saturn and two of its moons, Tethys (above) and Dione, were photographed by Voyager 1 on November 3, 1980, from 13 million kilometers (8 million miles). The shadows of Saturn’s three bright rings and Tethys are cast onto the cloud tops.
This picture of Dione was take by Voyager 1 from a range of 162,000 kilometers on November 12, 1980.
Eight hours after its closest approach to Saturn on Nov. 12, 1980, Voyager 1 took this picture of the planet’s ring system. Major features of the rings are clearly seen: from the top of the image down is the bright F-ring, the A-ring, the Cassini Division, the broad B-ring, and the C-ring (dark gray area). The spacecraft took this picture at a distance of 720,000 kilometers (446,000 miles) from an angle approximately 30 degrees above the ring plane. The unique lighting in this view brings out the many hundreds of bright and dark ringlets that make up this very thin, phonograph record-like ring system. The dark spokelike features seen in images taken during approach to Saturn now appear as bright streaks, indicating that they possess a strong forward-scattering property.
NASA’s Voyager 1 took this photograph of Saturn on Oct. 18, 1980,34 million kilometers (21.1 million miles) from the planet. The photograph was taken on the last day that Saturn and its rings could be captured within a single narrow-angle camera frame as the spacecraft closed in on the planet for its nearest approach on Nov. 12. Dione, one of Saturn’s inner satellites, appears as three color spots just below the planet’s south pole.
This picture of a crescent-shaped Earth and Moon — the first of its kind ever taken by a spacecraft — was recorded Sept. 18, 1977, by NASA’s Voyager 1 when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth. The Moon is at the top of the picture and beyond the Earth as viewed by Voyager. In the picture are eastern Asia, the western Pacific Ocean and part of the Arctic. Voyager 1 was directly above Mt. Everest (on the night side of the planet at 25 degrees north latitude) when the picture was taken. The photo was made from three images taken through color filters, then processed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Image Processing Lab. Because the Earth is many times brighter than the Moon, the Moon was artificially brightened by a factor of three relative to the Earth by computer enhancement so that both bodies would show clearly in the print.