The Voyager 2 probe discovered two more moons around Neptune, pushing the ringed planet’s total to eight as the probe raced toward its long-awaited late-night flyby of the “puzzling” blue planet, scientists said today.
“This is it! This is the 24 hours we’ve been waiting for,” Voyager project scientist Edward Stone said at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
With Neptune filling the field of view in Voyager 2’s cameras, a spectacular photograph was radioed back to Earth showing intricate detail of the Great Dark Spot, a titanic storm system topped by brilliant white cirrus clouds, a storm so large it could swallow the entire planet Earth.
Astronomer Bradford Smith announced that two more moons were discovered, one measuring just 30 miles or so across and another with a diameter of about 55 miles. The moons have been temporarily dubbed 1989 N5 and 1989 N6.
If all goes well, Voyager 2 will streak 3,000 miles above Neptune’s north polar cloud tops at 8:56 p.m.--the closest the probe has been to a planet since launch from Earth 12 years and four days ago.