Leigh Fletcher interview: Why we urgently need a mission to Neptune

To understand the secrets of the most common type of planet in our galaxy, we need to explore ice giants Neptune and Uranus. But we must act now or wait decades for another launch window, says planetary scientist Leigh Fletcher

Space 19 January 2022

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Jennie Edwards

BEFORE heading into the depths of interstellar space, the Voyager 2 probe flew by the giant icy worlds on the edge of our solar system, giving us our first ever close-up of Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989. These passes were fleeting, but the data the spacecraft collected about the two planets showed us previously unknown icy moons and dusty rings, unusual magnetic fields and dramatic plumes of nitrogen on the surface of Neptune’s moon Triton.

Voyager 2 now flies through the empty space between the stars, more than 19 billion kilometres away from Earth. The glimpse it …

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