Cassini Spacecraft Beams Back First Images From New Orbit Around Saturn

Posted: Dec 7 2016, 1:52pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 10 2016, 9:37pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Cassini Spacecraft Beams Back First Images from New Orbit around Saturn
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The new images show close-up views of Saturn's northern hemisphere including its incredible hexagon-shaped jet stream.

After making its first close dive over Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent first images of the planet back to Earth. New images provide close-up views of the planet’s northern hemisphere, including its intriguing six-sided feature known as hexagon.

On November 30, Cassini spacecraft began a new phase of the mission called Ring Grazing-Orbits. The mission involves a series of close flybys of Saturn flying above and around the planet’s poles before plunging just past the outer edges of its rings. Each of the Cassini’s flyby will last one week where the spacecraft will dive as deep as 56,000 miles above Saturn’s clouds. The new phase of the mission will continue until April 22 next year.

“This is it, the beginning of the end of our historic exploration of Saturn. Let these images -- and those to come -- remind you that we've lived a bold and daring adventure around the solar system's most magnificent planet.” Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader said in a statement.

A photo posted by NASA (@nasa) on

The images were taken by onboard camera two days before the spacecraft made its first ring-grazing orbit around the planet (Dec.2 and 3). Cassini will make even more closer orbits in coming days and will provide the detailed ever views of the Saturn’s outer rings and small moons that orbit there.

The next close flyby is scheduled on December 11. Cassini will complete its final orbit while capturing the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. After that, Cassini will be head towards its Grand Finale and move across the gap between Saturn and its innermost ring

On Sept. 15, the mission will conclude with final dive into Saturn's atmosphere and continue until Cassini loses its signals and stops transmitting data, wrapping up the 20-year long mission.

Cassini was launched into space in 1997 and it has been exploring Saturn, it rings system and its moons since reaching the planet’s orbit in 2004. NASA researchers are hoping to receive an unprecedented amount of data before spacecraft runs out of fuel.

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