NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere last month, destroying itself after a years’-long journey, first send some magnificent close-up pics of the giant planet back to earth.
Saturn’s graceful lanes of orbiting ice – its iconic rings – wind their way around the planet to pass beyond the horizon in this view from Cassini.
Diminutive Pandora, scarcely larger than a pixel here, can be seen orbiting just beyond the F ring in this image.
Also in this image is the gap between Saturn’s cloud tops and its innermost D ring through which Cassini would pass 22 times before ending its mission in spectacular fashion in 15 September. Scientists scoured images of this region, particularly those taken at the high phase (spacecraft-ring-Sun) angles, looking for material that might pose a hazard to the spacecraft.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 19 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on 12 August 2017. Pandora was brightened by a factor of two to increase its visibility.
The view was obtained at a distance to Saturn of approximately 581,000 miles (935,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 56km per pixel. The distance to Pandora was 1,1-millionkm for a scale of 66km per pixel.
Picture credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute