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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Goodbye to Cassini

Goodbye to Cassini

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, September 13, 2017/Categories: space science, art and design, adventure

                                        Cassini Mission Explorations Graphic (credit: CSIRO)

In two days, the remarkable Cassini mission, exploring Saturn's rings, moons, and raging storms, will come to a firey end. The discoveries, data, and imagery the spacecraft gathered during its 20-year mission will take years of further analysis to intrepret. Cassini carried a robotic passenger, the Huygens lander developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), that parachuted to the surface of the smog-covered moon, Titan, marking another remarkable accomplishment. Cassini was also a global research and engineering enterprise with the Deep Space Network of satellite tracking stations in Australia and elsewhere monitoring spacecraft transmissions from different locations on Earth.

Several of the best known Cassini/Huygens findings include photographs of water jets erupting from cracks on the moon Enceladus; rivers and lakes of liquid hydrocarbons flowing on Titan's surface; brilliant auroras, lightening, and hexagonal storms at Saturn's poles; and the emptyness of the space between the gas giant and its iconic rings. During its last Grand Finale, Cassini has swung across Saturn's poles to peer into raging hurricanes like the Great Red Spot, observed from Earth for centuries. Images of the storms has allowed graphic artists and illustators to re-imagine the planet as impressive art renderings. The probe's eliptical orbit has now been slightly altered by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory so Cassini will fall into Saturn's atmosphere and be consumed on Friday.

Two perspectives on the discoveries from the NASA mission are offered here:

Cassini has already entered the history books of adventure, exploration, and wonder.



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