NASA Cassini Spacecraft Flies Inside Saturn Rings, Stares Into Strange Vortex

Posted: Aug 31 2017, 3:14pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA Cassini Spacecraft Flies Inside Saturn Rings, Stares into Strange Vortex
Saturn's north polar vortex. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini is set to burn up in Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15

After two decades in space, NASA’s Cassini mission is drawing near its conclusion. But the good thing is it continues to explore Saturn and its massive ringed system and amaze everyone with its remarkable discoveries.

On August 20, 2017, Cassini dived through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings. Using wide-angle camera, the spacecraft took 21 images over the course of about four minutes during its dive and stitched together the first ever movie sequence of Saturn rings. The video makes viewers feel as they are actually flying inside the gap and looking at the rings along the way.

“The entirety of the main rings can be seen here, but due to the low viewing angle, the rings appear extremely foreshortened. The perspective shifts from the sunlit side of the rings to the unlit side, where sunlight filters through.” NASA statement reads.

“On the sunlit side, the grayish C ring looks larger in the foreground because it is closer; beyond it is the bright B ring and slightly less-bright A ring, with the Cassini Division between them. The F ring is also fairly easy to make out.”

In an earlier dive, Cassini flew over the Saturn’s north pole and captured the image of its strange abyss or vortex in an unprecedented detail. When the image was taken, Cassini was at a distance of approximately 166,000 miles from Saturn. It shows the north polar region of Saturn from closer than every before.

“These turbulent clouds are on top of the world at Saturn. NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this view of Saturn's north pole on April 26, 2017 - the day it began its Grand Finale -- as it approached the planet for its first daring dive through the gap between the planet and its rings.” NASA wrote in the description of the image.

Top of the world! These turbulent clouds are on top of the world at Saturn. Our Cassini spacecraft captured this view of Saturn’s north pole on April 26 – the day it began its Grand Finale – as it approached the planet for its first daring dive through the gap between the planet and its rings. Although the pole is still bathed in sunlight at present, northern summer solstice on Saturn occurred on May 24, bringing the maximum solar illumination to the north polar region. Now the Sun begins its slow descent in the northern sky, which eventually will plunge the north pole into Earth-years of darkness. After almost 20 years at Saturn, our Cassini mission is expectedly coming to an end on Sept. 15. Hear from mission experts today, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. EDT on nasa.gov/live. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute #nasa #space #saturn #cassini #mission #spacecraft #planet #solarsystem #rings #clouds #pole #orbit #sunlight #world

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Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 and has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. After running low on fuel, the spacecraft is now in the midst of the final phase of its mission called “grand finale.” It is a series of daring 22 dives. After that, Cassini will take a final plunge on Sep. 15 and burn up in Saturn’s atmosphere

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