Archive | September, 2017

Cassini’s Final Hours

15 Sep

Launched in 1997 the joint spacecraft Cassini-Huygens will soon end its mission to capture images and data from some of the furthest reaches of our Solar System.

A collaborative effort between NASA, ESA and ASI (Italian Space Agency) has seen orbiter (Cassini) and lander (Huygens) return some of the most fascinating pictures of Saturn and her surrounding bodies.

Time spent on this mission dates back to the 1980s with some scientists working on the project for more than a Saturnian year (29 Earth years).

Cassini

Cassini, named after Italian astronomer and mathematician Giovanni Cassini.

 

After its launch the spacecraft finally reached Saturn’s orbit in July of 2004, 5 months later, once preliminary experiments were complete, the Huygens lander probe separated from the orbiter at the end of the same year. Named after Christiaan Huygens the scientific probe’s mission was to land on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan and collect samples from a moon other than our own for the first time.

Cassini has continued to send back pictures and data from orbit high above the colossal Saturn for another 13 years, until today.

Mission staff will be ending Cassini’s life when they send the craft careering into Saturn’s gaseous atmosphere on September 15th 2017. The team will steer Cassini between the outer rings of the planet avoiding collision with any of her moons as not to contaminate their biological structures.

Coverage of the final stages of this mission will begin at 9am GMT (4am EST) and continue throughout the morning to early afternoon and you can watch it all via the NASA streaming website here or read an incredible account of the mission’s story via the BBC website.

Below is a series of photographs highlighting key moments during the Cassini mission over the past 19 years.

CassiniNowVThen

Assembly, Test and Launch team 1997 vs September 2017.

SaturnPole

The hexagonal pole of the planet Saturn.

SaturnEclipse

Yes, this really is a photograph.

Titan

A stunning, eerie image of Titan, the largest of Saturn’s moons.

Mimas

That’s no Moon! Well actually it is. Mimas, looks straight out of science fiction.

EncelJets

Jets spew from the south pole of Enceladus, a frozen but perhaps not baron world.

Encel

A series of fly-by images of Enceladus.

DioneDwarfingRhea

Dione seems to dwarf its close celestial neighbour Rhea.

lastPic

The last image of Titan taken from Cassini.

LastSaturn

Give us a wave. The last image taken by Cassini of a full Saturn, September 11th 2017.

DJwugrQUEAA-Ja8

The final shot of Saturn’s atmosphere before Cassini entered it’s death plunge, courtesy of Jason Major and NASA.

You can view the extended image gallery of the Cassini-Huygens mission from the NASA website.

All pictures courtesy of NASA, ESA and Italian Space Agencies

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