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There were two Voyager Ultraviolet Spectrometers, one on each spacecraft. By the time Lyle Broadfoot’s group joined LPL, the Voyager had passed Jupiter and Saturn, and we were headed for Uranus in 1985 and Neptune in 1989. It was a very, very busy time.
My involvement with the instrument was that I was the person who did the scheduling of the observations that were made, and was responsible for helping with people at the Jet Propulsion Lab to design the observations, making sure they went smoothly at the planets.
One of the principal things I did was I was responsible for using the instruments during the cruise, between Uranus and Neptune and so forth. In that respect I found that the instruments were extremely useful for ultraviolet astronomy. Since that was kind of my background, I used those instruments to make lots of observations of stars and the interstellar medium and so forth.
The instruments were designed and used for observations of the planets, but those observations occurred during a very brief period of time during the encounters, and you had all of this time in between. Those instruments were extremely valuable in helping to understand a part of the spectrum, the extreme ultraviolet and the far ultraviolet, that wasn’t being addressed by NASA at that time.
One of the biggest highs was when we were approaching Saturn, and they were taking all these pictures of the rings of Saturn and so forth. You could see all this structure in the rings. There were these papers that predicted the structure, or portions of the structure, has to do with the orbital resonances of the moons.
I was intrigued by this because I sat in a meeting and listened to these people talk about this. But no one really knew the scale of these pictures, so you couldn’t say, “Ah, that resonance there is due to that moon over there.” I knew nothing about planetary rings, but I had worked to get our instrument to watch a star go behind Saturn, and you could actually see the star through the rings. You see the light drop out and come back and drop out and come back. It’s called occultation.
That observation was the primary observation of another instrument on the spacecraft, but I realized that we could use our instrument just as well. So I got the observation designed so we were included in the observation. I got the data back and I was very intrigued by it—all this structure—so I just sat down with a pencil and piece of paper, and I knew what the trajectory was, and I worked out where everything should be. All of the sudden it all fell into place, because there were predictions of where these things should be. You could see just about every prediction lined up with one of these features.
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