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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Rings & Black Holes

Rings & Black Holes

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, April 28, 2017/Categories: natural history, space science, art and design, environment, adventure

                   Atmospheric 'Black Hole' Storm, Saturn (credit: Cassini/JPL)

The Cassini orbiter is nearing the end of its nearly 20 year mission. In one last series of fly-by's, the venerable space probe will dip back and forth through the inner ring of the gas giant gas gathering data and photographs of an unexplored region in the process. A preview of what the scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech hope to accomplish was given at a briefing just prior to the first encounter above Saturn's cloud-tops.

According to JPL, after it dove through the gap several hours later, the spacecraft sailed less than 2000 miles above the upper atmosphere clouds and within about 200 miles of the innermost visible edge of Saturn's rings. Several of the first photographs returned after the first pass through the rings, including a 'black hole' of a raging storm, were stunning. If the probe survives the hostile environment, including high radiation and ring debris, you can expect far more surprises from Cassini before it makes a final plunge into the atmosphere and is destroyed.

Giovanni Cassini would be very proud of his namesake!

WHB

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