When Voyager 1 flew right at Jupiter in 1979, capturing image after image, the Great Red Spot was so large it could hold close to four Earths. Its winds blow and circle at around 400 mph, and their effects have been a magnificent beauty mark on the planet for at least 300 years.
As for Voyager’s twin, Voyager 2, when it flew past Jupiter, it looked back to snap this photo from 1.5 million kilometers away. The two orange bands on the left are the planet’s “Jovian” rings, while the blue and red streaks are the “limb,” or edge of the planet backlit by the Sun.
Before Voyager 2 arrived at Europa almost two years after it launched in 1977, we’d only glimpsed the dance of this Jupiter moon across the sky from Earth. Voyager’s flyby brought Europa into stunning detail, a body covered in dark scratches. What’s surprising about this icy moon is that there are no large mountains on the surface, suggesting the surface is young. Scientists now believe it’s actually a thick crust of ice over a massive ocean, one that could even contain life.
Voyager 2 was a busy photographer, capturing some of the most amazing images of Saturn. This photo shows the ringed planet as if it were turned on its side. But it’s also in true color, what Saturn would look like to our eyes. Also in this image are three Saturnian moons: Tethys, Dione, and Rhea.
After saying sayonara to Saturn, Voyager 2 went even farther out into the solar system to become the first and still the only spacecraft to visit Uranus. The planet is one of the ice giants, featuring a thin ring system that has since been captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. In this Voyager 2 image, the rings of Uranus are not visible—just a smooth teal atmosphere of one of the most mysterious planets in the solar system.
But wait, you also get Neptune: Voyager 2 is the first and only spacecraft to reach this planet too. It is an ice giant as well, but Neptune is almost in a category of its own: This massive planet runs the show in the outer solar system, having gravitational influence on the orbits of many dwarf planets, including Pluto. When Voyager 2 visited Neptune, the planet featured this large oval storm, which has since disappeared.
Once Voyager 1’s primary mission was over and its camera was to be shuttered for good, Carl Sagan and a few other teammates requested one last image. On Valentine’s Day 1990, Voyager did an about-face to look back toward Earth. Hidden within these colorful bands of sunlight is our planet. Look all the way to the right, you’ll see a tiny dot. That’s us.