(Mirror Daily, United States) – NASA’s space probe Cassini is currently performing its final mission ever, which will end when the spacecraft starts its path to self-destruction in Saturn’s atmosphere. Until then, it succeeded to capture a series of breathtaking images of the planet. NASA took them and put them all together in a video.
The images describe what Cassini discovered during a one-hour observation of Saturn. The exploration starts at the north pole of the planet, marked by a giant vortex. Then, the space probe started moving south and reached past the limit of the hexagon jet stream. This hexagon surrounds the north pole of the planet and measures more than twice the surface of Earth.
Reaching closer to Saturn than ever
Right now, Cassini approached Saturn more than it has ever done before. It flew at 45,000 miles above Saturn’s gas clouds, and then suddenly dropped at barely 4,200 miles. Only such a small distance could allow it to capture such clear images of the planet. The resolution improved, and reached 0.5 miles per pixel.
Cassini is bound to make a second dive, when scientists hope it will capture even better images. At first, they were reticent about the features of the camera, as they feared to ask too much of the space probe. However, they are now confident of Cassini’s capabilities, and are preparing for the second dive scheduled for June 28th.
Cassini goes on its final mission
Besides Saturn, Cassini also captured images of Enceladus, the icy moon of the planet. The pictures show a crater in the northern region, which displays non-renewed material on top. This is in contrast with the south, which displays a more active geological activity.
Cassini started its mission on October 15th, 1997, but it reached Saturn only in 2005. Since then, it kept capturing images of the planet and its moons, but this is the first time when it reached so close to it. After finishing this final mission, the spacecraft will dive into Saturn’s atmosphere, where it will start burning. This will happen to avoid collision with the moons, as some of them might host life.
Image Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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