NASA's Cassini spacecraft finishes last close orbit of Saturn's moon Titan
12:55, Apr 25, 2017
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NASA has released a new image of earth clicked from Saturn's Icy Rings, where it can be seen only as a point of light.
A new image from NASA'sCassini spacecraft shows planet Earth as a point of light between the icy rings of Saturn.
By destroying the spacecraft, NASA will ensure that any hitchhiking Earth microbes still alive on Cassini will not contaminate the moons for future study. Cassini zoomed past Venus and explored Jupiter before entering into orbit around the gas giant Saturn, the first spacecraft to do so. Cassini-Huygens' input shows Saturn's moon Titan has Earth-like processes like clouds, rain, sand dunes, volcanos, and even rivers and lakes of methane and ethane. They will be looking into the images of Titan's hydrocarbon seas and lakes that spread across the moon's polar region.
After 20 years in space, Cassini is on the last leg of its mission to study the solar system's second-largest planet.
The mission will conclude with a science-rich plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15 this year.
The flyby also put Cassini on course for its dramatic last act, known as the Grand Finale. Program manager Earl Maize told the website that he has "no doubt" that Titan's gravity will help Cassini shift into the correct final orbit, but that his team is unsure what lies in the gap between Saturn and its rings.
The spacecraft captured the view on April 12, 2017, at 10:41 p.m. PDT (1:41 a.m. EDT on April 13).
Technically, Cassini began its Grand Finale orbits at this time, but since the excitement of the finale begins in earnest on April 26th with the first ultra-close dive past Saturn, the mission is celebrating the latter milestone as the formal beginning of the finale. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. The spacecraft will be out of contact during the dive and for about a day afterward while it makes science observations from close to the planet.
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