back to article Voyager 2 found! Deep Space Network hears it chattering in space

A signal from Voyager 2 has been detected by NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) over a week after communications with the distant probe were lost, the US agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Tuesday. The disco-era spacecraft was detected by Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex's 70-metre dish, Deep Space Station 43 ( …

  1. Lil Endian Silver badge
    Pint

    Contact!

    Yay! Woot woot!

    Celebrating like Disco Stu!

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Contact!

      Staying Alive!

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge
        Coat

        Reset: 15th October 2023...

        ...a Sunday.

        JPL will be suffering some Saturday Night Fever beforehand!

        [1977: a great year for disco loving space nerds!]

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Contact!

      Interesting that this news is released the same day as Dara O’Briain Wonders of the Moon airs on television. Coincidence……..?

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      .

      Yes more than likely. Very good programme and worth a watch on catch-up if you’re interested.

      1. Dr Kerfuffle

        Re: Contact!

        The Dara O’Briain programme about the moon was good BUT it was wrecked by the constant breaks for adverts every 10 minutes. Without the adverts the whole thing could have been condensed down to about 20 minutes. Best watch it on catch-up if you have the ability to skip the ads!

        Paul

      2. William Towle
        Angel

        Re: Contact!

        > Interesting that this news is released the same day as Dara O’Briain Wonders of the Moon airs on television. Coincidence……..?

        Completely?

        I only ended up with half an ear on the show when it explained what a supermoon was -occasionally reported right here- but the BBC explains the current batch of lunar phenomena here (namely Sturgeon Moon, (rare) Blue Moon, (rarer) Harvest Moon respectively)

        // Mr O'B? -->

    3. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Contact!

      To quote Jonathan Blake:

      God! I miss Disco!

  2. wolfetone Silver badge

    Reset?

    Forgive me if this has been answered in another article - but what happens with this reset? Does the internal clock tick over to 15th October, and then does it just turn itself to a predefined point? Or does something else happen?

    1. Lil Endian Silver badge

      Re: Reset?

      This gives a bit of insight regarding the question "what happens on the reset".

      From New Scientist.

      But if anything were to go wrong, we would have no way to send any commands to Voyager 2 while the antenna is pointed away from Earth. “We are now generating a new command to attempt to point the spacecraft antenna toward Earth,” said Dodd. “There is a low probability that this will work.”

      Even if it doesn’t work, all is not lost – Voyager 2 is programmed to automatically reset its orientation a few times a year in case of situations just like this one.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Reset?

        Thank you!

        1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

          Re: Reset?

          I'm curious as to whether at that distance Sol is still the brightest star in the neighbourhood (my guess would be yes) - and if Earth is close enough that the angular distance between Earth and Sun matters (also yes). That would ease the task of working out where to point the dish, I suppose.

          1. Lil Endian Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Reset?

            ...my guess would be yes... -- Your guess would be correct!

            Calculate apparent magnitude: m = (M-5) + (log10(d*5))

            Where:

            m = apparent magnitude

            d = distance in parsecs

            M = abs magnitude

            So,

            (M) Abs Mag Sol = 4.75

            (d) V2 distance = 134 AU = 0.0006496456 pc

            m = (4.75 - 5) + (log10(0.0006496456 * 5))

            m = -0.25 + -2.48835349431

            m = -2.23835349431

            Taking Sirius[1] app mag from Earth (cos too lazy to calc the difference, and it'll be insignificant!):

            Sirius m = −1.46

            Sol m at V2 = -2.24

            So yup, Sol still brighter.

            [1] As the brightest star in the night sky.

            PS. Heeeelp! I need a life!

            PPS. I'll calculate the distance V2 needs to be for that not to be the case, after some therapy -->

            PPPS: No, really: Heeeelp!!!

            1. HappyDog
              Pint

              Re: Reset?

              I felt I had to double check your calculations before I up voted you. But then I re read your first PS, and gave you the vote anyway! Have a beer

              1. Lil Endian Silver badge

                Re: Reset?

                Cheers!

                Er, did I do a booboo? More than happy to be corrected.

            2. MyffyW Silver badge

              Re: Reset?

              Any post that uses parsecs in the correct context deserves an upvote. I'd upvote again for your maths if I could.

              1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
                Joke

                Re: Reset?

                But he used it as a measurement of distance, not time.

    2. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Reset?

      Also on ElReg: https://www.theregister.com/2023/07/31/nasa_mistakenly_disconnects_voyager_2/

      "NASA reckons the situation is temporary and will not end the probe's nearly 46-year stint in space as it is programmed to recalibrate its position a few times a year. October 15 is the next scheduled reset."

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Reset?

        Jeez Joe, my short term memory is soooo volatile! -->

        N1 :)

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Reset?

          CAS before RAS...

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: Reset?

            CAS before RAS...

            Except after C?

            1. Lil Endian Silver badge
              IT Angle

              Re: Reset?

              Gotta be a 'P'.... Or a 'D'.....

          2. Paul Herber Silver badge

            Re: Reset?

            Not the sort of strobe that Disco Stu (see above) would recognise!

    3. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Reset?

      If I've done my Maths right* I calculate that all we need to do is put a massive radio telescope 0.7 light hours (~750 billion kilometers) from Earth, where Voyager 2 is actually pointing and we're back in business. I'm sure there's an egotistical billionaire or three that would be willing to try.

      [*It's been a while since I put any real trust in my prowess with trigonometry, so your mileage (or km-age) may vary.]

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Reset?

        You can check against our workings from the article "We've lost our probe!" last Monday;

        Draco's calcs: https://forums.theregister.com/post/4704486

        Yours Truly: https://forums.theregister.com/post/4705186

        [I made it 1.125B km - but looking back I'm not sure my inputs were correct!]

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deep Space Network station

    Check out eevblog on youtube for a 3 part tour of that facility with lots of techy details.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Deep Space Network station

      How's about a link ?

      1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Re: Deep Space Network station

        Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=586Zn1ct-QA

        Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUvzgZt1Vug

        Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfZz4EnhJBE

        1. Flightmode

          Re: Deep Space Network station

          Though primarily focusing on Voyager 1 - Tom Scott visited the JPL a few years back - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLlzx6v8CcA - and the intro to that video still freaks my mind.

          "The Voyager 1 space probe is the furthest man-made object from Earth, and the fastest. But right now, it is moving towards us. Relatively speaking."

    2. BillyMunny

      Re: Deep Space Network station

      Note what is said about the strength of Voyager 2's signal strength in those videos. It is strong - several dB above the noise, and stronger than other probes which you would expect to be stronger. Voyager 2 will run out of power for its communications before it is too far away to contact. Uh... as long as the spacecraft has its antenna pointed Earthward.

  4. Paratrooping Parrot
    Unhappy

    All alone in space

    Is it me, or does it sound like Voyager 2 is lonely in space, hoping that someone talks to him?

    1. tip pc Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: All alone in space

      just faithfully doing its duty, except with most of its systems offline due to degradation and reduced output from its power plant.

      its a bit like a terminal prompt just blinking away with stuff going on in the back ground

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: All alone in space

        > a terminal prompt

        Can we call it a console prompt?

        Given Voyager's age the word "terminal" brought - unfortunate thoughts. Sniffle.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: All alone in space

          Weird to think it'll be another 300 years before it gets to the Oort cloud.

          Space is mind numbingly big.

          1. WonkoTheSane
            Coat

            Re: All alone in space

            You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.

            Mine's the one with a copy of the Guide in the pocket. -->

          2. MichaelGordon

            Re: All alone in space

            And probably around 30,000 years until it exits the far side of the Oort cloud. Voyager isn't heading towards Alpha Centuri, but if it were it would take about 70,000 years to get there.

            1. heyrick Silver badge

              Re: All alone in space

              And that's our closest neighbouring star.

              Kind of sobering to think that sharing the world with Neanderthals is a lot closer in time to us (~40Kyr) than Voyager getting to be that far away (~70Kyr).

              1. Lil Endian Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: All alone in space

                Kind of sobering to think that sharing the world with Neanderthals is a lot closer in time to us (~40Kyr)...

                You clearly ain't been to my local!

              2. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

                Re: All alone in space

                And that's our closest neighbouring star.

                Technically, Proxima Centauri is the closest star (Alpha Centauri is a 3-star system and Proxima Centauri is Alpha Centauri C). If you are talking about Alpha Centauri as a star, and not the system, then it would refer to either Alpha Centauri A or to A and B together (as they appear as one star in the night sky due to their proximity).

                At some point, Proxima Centauri will be further away, as it orbits the A-B system, but this won't happen for another 25,000 years or so, at which point A and B will alternate being the closest star (every 79 years) until Proxima comes back round again.

            2. Lil Endian Silver badge

              Re: All alone in space

              At its current speed V2 travelling from Alpha Centauri AB to Proxima would take in the region of 4000 years[1]! (Depending on the flexibility of rounding!)

              From the esteemed Wiki: Currently, the distance between Proxima Centauri and Alpha Centauri AB is about 13,000 AU (0.21 ly), equivalent to about 430 times the radius of Neptune's orbit.

              [1] That's about the age of the Earth *cough* according to some *cough cough*

              1. Snapper

                Re: All alone in space

                My God, is that true?

              2. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

                Re: All alone in space

                "[1] That's about the age of the Earth *cough* according to some *cough cough*"

                Uh, no.

                It is about two thirds of the age of the Earth, the planets and the stars, as well as everything else according to the Abrahamic myths.

                Some other creation stories *do* have her being younger and some far older.

                By a strange coincidence, Science has the current age of the Earth and the half-life of a uranium isotope being of roughly the same magnitude.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: All alone in space

            "I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

            #HHGTTG

          4. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

            Re: All alone in space

            "Weird to think it'll be another 300 years before it gets to the Oort cloud."

            And millennia before she passes out of it. The cometary zone is *huge*. It extends half-way to Proxima ...

            Which leads to interesting ideas.

            Should Proxima and all her little freinds, such as Wolf 359, have extended cometary zones it may be possible for City-Farms to use the ambient resources

            to sustain themselves while drifting from one to another. Interstellar travel, the slowest way. Indeed, a loosely coherent "civilisation" of City-Farms may be

            the easiest way to colonise the Galaxies.

            Not that it will ever happen but it's nice to think about.

            "Space is mind numbingly big." Citation needed?

        2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: Sniffle.

          Do you need to be consoled?

      2. NATTtrash
        Alien

        Re: All alone in space

        "just faithfully doing its duty"

        Hmmm... Where have I heard that story before?

        A lonely space craft, roaming through space, sending signals dutifully, but getting no reply from its creators who killed themself by war and pollution...

        OP: "...hoping that someone talks to him?" You sure it's a boy? ;)

    2. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

      Re: All alone in space

      Voyagers famously have both male and female parts.

    3. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: All alone in space

      Talks to *her*.

      Machines are generally considered to be feminine in English, ships more so and all of those little robots are ships. Spaceships.

      Planets, stars, countries and a few other classes of objects are also female. Why this is is too deeply buried in the Anglo-Saxon-Teutonic past to be

      easily explained.

      It may seem strange, but even Sol and Jupiter are female. :)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The disco-era spacecraft

    Why do I now have a vision of a giant mirror ball hanging off the back of Voyager, and NASA shining some flashing lights into the night sky looking for a reflection to pinpoint it's position.....

    Maybe it also has a medallion and hairy chest wig, too ?

    But, top marks to the boffins, as usual, and tip of the hat to whoever thought of putting in a self-alignment cron job, all those years ago.

    1. Forget It

      Re: The disco-era spacecraft

      NASA to VGER2

      ...

      Love is so confusing, there's no peace of mind

      If I FEAR I'M LOSIN' YOU, it's just no good

      You teasin' like you do...

    2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

      Re: The disco-era spacecraft

      Disco balls in space did you say?

      https://lageos.gsfc.nasa.gov/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The disco-era spacecraft

        Brilliant. Thank you. Everyday is a learning day!

  6. Mr. V. Meldrew
    Holmes

    Come to Mama....

    .... my sweet 45 year old child. and don't run off again! Grrr!

  7. that one in the corner Silver badge

    October 16th:

    Data slowly starts arriving again.

    October 17th: Jackie, the junior researcher, who nobody ever listens to, notices anomalies from the magnetometer.

    October 28th: Europa occluded. Jackie knocks excitedly on door to gamma ray observatory

    November 20th: Xeelee Nightfighter, wings furled, settles into Lunar orbit. Pilot apologises for bumping into Voyager, supplies NASA with insurance details

    November 22nd: first attempts to sue Xeelee pilot for whiplash arrive at JPL.

    December 9th: Xeelee insurance company responds to the claims.

    Date unknown: remnants of humanity stare up at gaps in the dark, dark clouds, thinning at last, as the first stars are seen to shine through once more.

  8. Korev Silver badge
    Pint

    A pint in the Space Bar for all the Boffins -->

  9. Ball boy Silver badge

    Voyager 2, the signal decoded...

    It reads as follows:

    "You don't call, you don't write. It's like we just drifted apart"

    Joking, natch. Well done to the boffins wot picked up a heartbeat in the noisy clutter of deep space and let's hope for a successful reset on the 15th

  10. Winkypop Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Thank you for holding

    Meanwhile at Voyager 2: Elevator musak…..

    And now, a walk in the Black Forest.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Thank you for holding

      a walk in the Black Forest

      $DEITY, did you have to remind me?

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: a walk in the Black Forest

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPZUF82UBpY&t=44s

        Brings back childhood memories of my first cassette tape recorder (Sanyo) and the above album which was given to me, or maybe it was that woman with the leg I remembered the most...

        $DEITY, did you have to remind me?

        (Sorry Arthur)

  11. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    This is truly amazing

    If 1970s technology can reliably and consistently sort itself out and talk to Earth after nigh-on 50 years, think what a craft with today's tech could achieve. Even using radiation-hardened 'old' but relatively proven hardware based on, say, 20 year old technology would be a massive leap over what VGER can do.

    I'm thinking even higher resolution photos of Saturn's moons, Pluto etc.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: think what a craft with today's tech could achieve

      I truly wish I could share your optimism.

      Now compare... oh, I dunno... how about WordPerfect 5.1 with Word 365?

    2. gillburt

      Re: This is truly amazing

      I suspect the 1970s tech keeps working because of its simplicity... technology today would have failed because VGERs cloud subscription account was full, or such like.

    3. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: This is truly amazing

      Built by today's scientists, using today's tech, a craft would float by both while playing Candy Crush on its phone.

  12. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Alien

    October 16th

    collides with mechanical super inteligence, and returns to earth looking for its creator.

    After scanning earth for inteligent lifeforms, it moves off in its endless search through space for its creator

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: October 16th

      VGINY?

      1. benderama

        Re: October 16th

        A documentary has already been made showing VGERs dismay at finding so many carbon units on the creator’s home.

  13. Lord Kipper III

    I look forward to the confession of the flight operations engineer(s) who confused the command transmitted to realign the dish off the Pale Blue Dot appearing in a future Who, Me? regomised to Will of course in honour of the chap who restored comms from V'GER in that movie.

  14. Vader

    Wonderful marvel of engineering. Those 70's models keep on ticking.

    1. Winkypop Silver badge

      And look at that mileage!

      1. Andy3

        And still no cambelt change!

  15. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    But how?

    Don't think there's been a post and I cant find out how Voyager actually reorients itself.

    I can't imagine mechanical gyros would still be running after all this time (I could be wrong), random searching for a home signal would be too vague, a star finder (and plate solving) would work but not with 1970's level hardware .... So how does it know where its relevant bits are pointing, where it's going in space and whether it's going to get there ...?

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Re: But how?

      Im guessing it scans the sky on all 3 axis trying to find a predetermined signal and points itself towards the strongest signal.

    2. Technogeek

      Re: But how?

      Sun and Earth Pointing: The spacecraft are designed to keep their high-gain antennas pointed toward Earth, and their solar panels. oriented toward the Sun. This ensures that they can maintain communication with Earth and continue to receive power from the Sun for their systems. They don't comb for a signal as that would consume propellant which over the life of the mission is now very low. Just pointing at the sun and knowing the time from the ultrastable clock allows a compute of the change of antenna orientation from sun to earths orbital position. The futher away the spacecraft from earth the smaller the angle of change requred to adjust for Earth orbital position round the sun. By now it's probably very small.

    3. Seajay
      Boffin

      Re: But how?

      Voyager has a system called Attitude and Articulation Control Subsystem (AACS) which is responsible for maintaining orientation etc. It has various systems in it, including a "Sun Sensor" and "Star Tracker" both used for attitude reference. There's an article here on how it was designed to be autonomously fault tolerant given that communicating with earth was critical for mission success. https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/epdf/10.2514/6.1981-1812 (requires sign in after abstract)

      This article has some more details as well... https://hackaday.com/2023/07/31/just-how-is-voyager-2-going-to-sort-out-its-dish-then/

      Effectively the star tracker keeps its eye on the Star "Canopus"- which is conjunction with the direction of the Sun, allows it to orient itself.

  16. Technogeek

    I've followed the voyager missions since their launch in 1977 and being a space nerd I would have been sad if the end of this voyager was caused by human error. What is gobsmacking is the sensitivity of the ground station to be able to detect the carrier with the voyager dish 2 degrees off beam, wow!

    Call me nostalgic or whatever but I've seen stuff going on long before most of you readers were even born! I don't remember the unix timestamp of 0 as I was still watching 405 lines TV of Apollo back then.

    1. JulieM Silver badge

      Upvoted just for remembering 405-line TV!

      1. Andy3

        I used to fix 405 line TV's for a living! Entered the trade in 1969 when TV had just gone all 625 line and there were still lots of people watching 405 models. IIRC, 405 continued in parallel to 625 until the mid-80's.

  17. Miss Config
    WTF?

    Control Room

    One strange thing about the Voyagers, not previously mentioned here, is their control room.

    Absolutely nothing like Houston Mission Control but rather an office by a shop in some California strip mall.

    Or at least it was about 10 years ago when I saw a report about it.

  18. ilanp
    Happy

    Mesh routers through deep space

    They could spread millions of mesh routers through deep space for better communication with Voyager :)

  19. Andy3

    Great news, but I'm a bit confused. They lost contact with Voyager when the antenna was moved 2 degrees off beam, but they can still send a signal to re-align the antenna? Two degrees is quite a big error over such a distance. So they haven't lost contact? Or was it just a very weak signal due to the 2 degree misalignment and they managed to bash a signal into it by using high power? And another question - if Canberra can contact it, why can't the slightly bigger Jodrell Bank? Or maybe the angles are wrong at the moment? Sorry about all the question marks but I have a vast stock of them that I really must get through.

    1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      2 degrees off as a straight line, like say a laser, is an enormous error, but for a radio signal there will be a certain amount of beam spread. At that distance, even a spread of microns per mile would likely be enough to hit Earth's entire orbit (no I did not try the math.) There are also sidelobes off the main signal for a parabolic antenna that allow for a surprisingly strong signal when the aim is a couple of degrees off. As I recall from my satcom days, a sidelobe is about 10dB lower than the main signal, and occasionally caused acquisition problems when the ground station operator was incapable of understanding that no, he is not locked on, keep tracking over. Anyway, a sidelobe would be detectable from an off-center antenna and may even work well enough to command the satellite to realign early. It's far from optimal and not guaranteed to work, but then it may when you consider the baud rate of 1970s communications when 4.8KBPS was incredibly fast.

  20. gillburt

    I can't help feeling there's a Who? Me? or On Call article (or both!) needing to be written about this

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pint

      Back In The Game.

      Full Contact has been made - Have some beers you deserve them (The idiot that fucked up is paying for them)..

      https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-66408851

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