Science

The Cassini spacecraft's deadly dive into Saturn

The Cassini spacecraft's deadly dive into Saturn”

Prepare to say goodbye to Cassini. Cassini made a close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on Monday, a pass that slightly shifted the spacecraft's trajectory and sent it on a path leading into Saturn's atmosphere. "Cassini's final weak radio signals will have travelled 1.5 billion km at the speed of light to reach Canberra".

"When the two Voyager spacecraft passed by Saturn in 1980 and 1981, we thought the rings were relatively young", Esposito said. AI will take over, and scientists warn of doomsday caused by climate change.

"We see extensive, rapid recycling of ring material in which moons are continually shattered into ring particles, which then gather and reform moons". That's why, on Friday, it will slam itself into Saturn's atmosphere. About two minutes later, Cassini will burn and disintegrate completely - any traces of it will melt due to the heat and high pressure of the giant planet's hostile atmosphere.

"The spacecraft's final signal will be like an echo", said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL. "It will radiate across the solar system for almost an hour and a half after Cassini itself has gone".

Mission scientists and operators are giving Cassini this fiery send-off on objective.

Cassini, the most distant planetary orbiter ever launched, is closing in on its doom. It astonished scientists by finding conditions potentially suitable for life beneath the surface of one of Saturn's icy moons, Enceladus.

The Cassini spacecraft is a victim of its own success.

After 13 years in orbit around Saturn, and hundreds of fly-bys of the moons it was sent to study, the Cassini probe has nearly run out of fuel.

In April earlier this year, Cassini was placed on an impact course called The Grand Finale.

It is known as the Cassini-Huygens mission because it delivered ESA's Huygens probe to Titan - the "first descent and landing on a world in the outer solar system", according to NASA.

Along its way, Cassini (and its Titan-bound companion, the atmospheric entry probe Huygens) captured hundreds of thousands of images and taught us more about Saturn, its rings and many moons.

One of Esposito's favorite discoveries using UVIS was the detection of a huge cloud of neutral oxygen atoms in the Saturn system on approach in 2003, which puzzled scientists for years. "But data from Cassini are consistent with the picture that Saturn has had rings throughout its history".



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