Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Looking back at five incredible Cassini revelations during its final mission – the ring-grazing orbits!

NASA's Cassini mission is currently on its last leg and is inching toward its graceful finish in 2017. At present, the spacecraft is performing flybys of the planet Saturn, making its closest approaches to the rings.
The mission, which is about to end some time this year, has definitely been a fruitful one, owing to all the wonderfully insightful information scientists have managed to glean from it.
Every new image beamed back by Cassini during its last mission has come bearing some evolutionary secret or shows an unpredictable side of the planet or a feature that would have otherwise been impossible to find out.
The 20-year-old spacecraft has been investigating the ringed planet for 13 years, thereby providing scientists with numerous insights into Saturn's structure and evolution.
Cassini's last mission called the 'ring-grazing orbits' that began last November will come to an end soon.
With its finale beginning in April and its first final plunge scheduled for April 26, let's have a look at five amazing things Cassini's ring-grazing orbits unveiled.

1. Cassini's first ring-grazing image:

 This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft was obtained about two days before its first close pass by the outer edges of Saturn's main rings during its penultimate mission phase.

2. Close-up of Saturn's moon Pandora:

 The image was captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its closest-ever flyby of Pandora on December 18, 2016, during the third of its grazing passes by the outer edges of Saturn's main rings.

3. Close view of Saturn's 'wavemaker' moon Daphnis:

The image is the closest view of the small moon obtained yet. The little moon's gravity raises waves in the edges of the gap in both the horizontal and vertical directions. Cassini was able to observe the vertical structures in 2009, around the time of Saturn's equinox.

4. Grazing Saturn's rings in true sense:

 Cassini beamed back a stunning image which shows Saturn's rings in a full close-up. The incredible closeness with which NASA's Cassini spacecraft is observing Saturn's dazzling rings of icy debris is simply magnificent to witness.

5. Cassini's goodbye image of Saturn's moon Mimas:

In its season of 'lasts', NASA's Cassini spacecraft made its final close approach to Mimas on January 30, 2017. At closest approach, Cassini passed 25,620 miles (41,230 kilometers) from Mimas. During its mission, Cassini made close approaches to Mimas only seven flybys at distances of less than 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers). Imaging scientists combined ten narrow-angle camera images to create this stunning mosaic view.

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