Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft has beamed back images from its second “Grand Finale” dive between Saturn and its rings. Even though Cassini found mostly empty space between Saturn and its rings in the initial dive, the dish shaped communications antenna was used as a shield in the second dive as well, and Cassini was out of contact with Earth during the duration of the dive. Nasa’s sub site for the spacecraft contains the raw images that come directly from Cassini to your desktop. There are now new images of the rings of Saturn, and two moons of Saturn, Rhea and Titan.

rhea
Rhea, a moon of Saturn.. Image: Nasa.

Cassini has finished all its close approaches to the moons of Saturn, with the last one being a slingshot maneuver around Titan. However, there are a series of distant flybys of the moons planned over the duration of future “Grand Finale” dives. The final series of orbits are called the “Grand Finale” as Cassini will be diving into the gas giant at the end of the orbits, to prevent contamination of the moons of Saturn, which may harbour life. Enceladus is one of the moon where conditions are suitable for life. The next dive is scheduled for 8 May.

Titan. Image: Nasa.
Titan has a hazy atmosphere. Image: Nasa.

Cassini is a joint effort by Nasa, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). There are 2o orbits remaining now, and Cassini has its fatal date with Saturn scheduled for 15 September. Cassini is expected to beam back more images of the moons, the rings of Saturn and Saturn itself during the remainder of the orbits. The spacecraft will continue to transmit data till the moment the friction from the atmosphere burns it up, and converts Cassini into a shooting star.

Publish date: May 4, 2017 3:34 pm| Modified date: May 4, 2017 3:43 pm

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