The orbits of the planets are coplanar. We send probes out along this plane to explore planets.

Why can't we send a probe perpendicular to this plane (say due north from the earths perspective) and get images of the Milky Way? Or some portion of it? Or a top down view of our solar system?

Voyager 1 is now 141.56019675 AU away. Would a similar probe that far away not be able to send back wide angle images from a different perspective?

Or has this been attempted already?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ Not exactly a duplicate because this one has the added question if we would get nice wide angle images. @Marinaio Maybe only that should be left in the question and the rest edited out with a link to the other question. $\endgroup$
    – user10509
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ The solar system is very, very small when compared to the Milky Way. 141 AU is nothing compared to the diameter of our own galaxy. You don't get a different perspective if you change your point of view by such a small distance. The diameter of the Milky Way is about 100,000 lightyears, but 141 AU is only 19.5 lighthours or 1/448 of a lightyear, about 2.2 millilightyears. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ @PearsonArtPhoto, David Hammen, Jan Doggen and Uwe. Thank you for your insight. Based on what everyone has said, riddle me this: How does science know that our Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy?? Obviously a probe won't gather photographic evidence. (Or is this supposed to be posted in a new question?) $\endgroup$
    – Marinaio
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


To get a picture of the Milky Way from a different perspective, one would have to travel a very long ways. Very few stars would appear much different from Alpha Centauri, which is light years away, and far beyond anything we can do. Voyager 1 will take a very long time to reach that far, its speed is only about 1 light year every 20,000 years! And it will be dead long before that. Thus, there simply isn't much reason to do this, although when we have the ability to send interstellar probes, it would become more interesting.

Furthermore, we actually have sent interstellar probes outside of the Solar plane. Note that Voyager 1 is about 45 degrees to the plane, and Voyager 2 is going below the plane.

enter image description here

Essentially these probes passed close to a moon, and took a path that sent them in unusual directions, but achieved the best science.

  • $\begingroup$ Note that the out-of-plane directions of Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, and Voyager 2 have nothing to do with getting a better view of the solar system, let alone the galaxy. They have those out-of-plane velocities because setting up for the last encounter that each of them had with a solar system body happened to give them a post-encounter out-of-plane velocity. Science is best done by getting very close. While a remote view might make for a nice publicity shot (e.g., the famous Pale Blue Dot image), it's not good science. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen That was what my last sentence was intended to indicate. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 1:57

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