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PARTING SHOT

This was Cassini’s last image before burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere

  • Akshat Rathi
By Akshat Rathi

Senior reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This monochrome view is the last image taken by the imaging cameras on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

It’s grainy. It’s raw. It’s monochrome. And, yet, it’s a powerful image. It shows Saturn’s night side, lit by reflected light from the rings, and shows the location at which the spacecraft would enter the planet’s atmosphere.

This is the last image taken by the cameras aboard NASA’s awe-inspiring Cassini. Hours later, the spacecraft began descending into Saturn’s thick atmosphere, traveling at 12 kilometers per second (7.5 miles per second) and was turned to ashes.

Over 13 years of operation, the spacecraft has traveled 2 billion kilometers of orbits around Saturn and its moons. It has sent back more than 450,000 images, and for quite some time these will be the last close-up images of Saturn we will have until another mission returns to the ringed planet. Here’s a selection of what Cassini saw in its final hours.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This image of Saturn’s outer A ring features the small moon Daphnis and the waves it raises in the edges of the Keeler Gap. The image was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This image of Saturn’s northern hemisphere was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This image of Saturn’s rings was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
As it glanced around the Saturn system one final time, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this view of the planet’s giant moon Titan.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

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