view of cassini spacecraft near Saturn's rings


The Cassini spacecraft, after 13 years exploring Saturn and its moons, broke apart yesterday during entry into the planet’s atmosphere. There’s pretty much nothing not interesting about this mission: the Huygens probe parachuting onto Titan, the discoveries that answered questions or sparked new ones about Saturn and its moons, the risky, cinematic last set of 22 orbits that looped between the planet and its rings:

Even the reason for destroying Cassini is about looking to the future: by using the last bits of fuel to control its path, NASA and the ESA avoid the risk of it crashing onto Titan or Enceladus where it could contaminate environments potentially friendly to life.

A rendering of Cassini on a flyover past the water vapor plumes on Enceladus, which contain organic compounds.”

You can find NASA’s valediction for Cassini here as well as a video summing up the mission.

And below, from a few days ago, one of its last images: the moon Daphnis making ripples in Saturn’s rings.
This image of Saturn's outer A ring features the small moon Daphnis and the waves it raises in the edges of the Keeler Gap. The image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017.


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