|The Department Graduate Students Ground-Based Research|
The Pioneers |
Pioneer Venus |
Mars Observer |
Lunar Prospector | IMAGE
1 | 2 | 3 | 5 | 6
The very first mission I got involved in when I got to LPL was again courtesy of Don Hunten and his colleague Lyle Broadfoot, and Lyle invited me to be a team member on his ultraviolet spectrometer instrument on Voyager 2, which had one more flyby to go, and that was in 1989, and that was the flyby of Neptune. This was long after Voyager was launched. That group was inherited from LPL from the University of Southern California, in fact, so it doesn’t count as being an LPL success from the beginning. But it was a great inheritance.
Lyle was very nice; he said, “Why don’t you help us with Triton?”
So in ’89 I got to go to JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory], and I was there for the flyby. The ultraviolet data were neat but I snuck over to the imaging room so I could see the very first pictures of Triton, so I was among the set of human eyes to first lay sight upon this world, which is the most distant moon in the solar system excluding Pluto and Charon—this moon of Neptune called Triton.
One of the most memorable things to me was the 1989 encounter of Voyager 2 with Neptune, including Triton. This was just pure exploration. Neptune and the satellites went from just points of light in the sky—in fact, some of the satellites were discovered by Voyager so they weren’t even that—to worlds where we had high-resolution images, overnight. Literally, overnight, it just came in, in the wee hours of the morning.
We processed the images, and at Jet Propulsion Laboratory television news crew trucks were lining the street on out of the laboratory. We had the wee hours of the morning to process the images before the press conference the next day, showing the world brand-new stuff. It was really something.
One of the high points was flying by Neptune’s satellite Triton. Really an exciting time. We did an experiment where we watched the Sun set behind Triton. It’s called an occultation experiment—you’re measuring the transmission of the atmosphere by seeing how the spectrum changes as the Sun moves behind the planet. The light passing through the atmosphere is absorbed and the shape of the absorption spectrum tells you what the composition of the atmosphere is and how it’s distributed in space, and you can get the temperature.
I was looking at the data and I realized at that moment I was the only person in the world that knew what the major constituent of the atmosphere of Triton was. Wow. But then I blabbed it, so that only lasted for about five minutes.
|Directory | LARS | LPL Library | LPL WebMail | Webmaster|
Department of Planetary Sciences
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
1629 E. University Blvd.
Tucson AZ 85721
Copyright © 2008 Arizona Board of Regents