Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Why do all of the space probes launched travel within the plane of the solar system? Can we direct a probe perpendicular to the plane of the solar system and galaxy.

share|improve this question
1  
We haven't sent a probe into the galaxy qua into the galaxy. We've sent probes past the outer planets that have then flown on their way, but if you do that the natural direction is in the plane of the solar system. –  dmckee Nov 30 '12 at 16:18

2 Answers 2

Everything that we can see with telescopes that is worth visiting is in the plane of the solar system. Why go to the time and expense of sending a probe out of the plane of the solar system when we understand so little about the other planets, and can have our problems study them?

share|improve this answer
    
Send a probe out of the plane of the solar system and possible galaxy to see what things look like. So far we are speculating on what our galaxy looks like. Go out and take a picture of it and whatever lies between here and there. Are there other solar systems, planets, planetoids, etc. perpendicular to our plane or is our galaxy flat like a sheet of paper? –  Keith Nov 30 '12 at 17:59
    
@Keith: do you have millions of years? It took Voyager forty years to get from Earth to the edge of the solar system. Leaving the plane of the galaxy would take much longer than that. –  Jerry Schirmer Nov 30 '12 at 18:38
    
Some solar observation satellites have been launched into highly inclined orbits so that we could have a good view of the polar regions of the star. –  dmckee Nov 30 '12 at 18:55
    
@dmckee: well, what's the ratio of the width of that orbit around the sun to the radius of Jupiter? –  Jerry Schirmer Nov 30 '12 at 20:17
1  
The comment wasn't meant to contradict your answer but to note that we do do high inclination orbits when there is something to be gained by it. –  dmckee Nov 30 '12 at 20:45

In fact we have got a probe flying out of the plane of the Solar System because Voyager 1 is heading out of the plane of the ecliptic, though admittedly not perpendicular to it. This wasn't deliberate, or at least it wasn't planned for. Voyager 1 was diverted to get a close view of Titan and a side effect of this was to send it out of the plane of the Solar System.

As Jerry says, there's nothing interesting out of the plane of the ecliptic until you start reaching nearby stars, which in Voyager's case will take about 40,000 years by which time it will be dead (along with you and me of course).

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.