The US space agency NASA has shared another stunning image of Saturn shot by the Cassini spacecraft before it plunged into the planet. In this image, NASA’s Cassini sees Saturn and its rings through a haze of Sun glare on the camera lens. If you could travel to Saturn in person and look out the window of your spacecraft when the Sun was at a certain angle, you might see a view very similar to this one.
Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to show the scene in natural color. The images were taken with Cassini’s wide-angle camera on June 23, 2013, at a distance of approximately 491,200 miles (790,500 kilometers) from Saturn.
September 15, 2017, marks the last day of the Cassini orbiter when NASA instructed it to enter into the thick atmosphere of Saturn talking its last dive to death. Cassini was launched back in 1997 in a joint effort between NASA, Italian Space Agency and European Space Agency (ESA) after which, it has been collecting data for over 13 years now after reaching the Saturn’s orbit in 2004. Cassini was equipped with advanced instruments and cameras which would send data and photos of the planet and its moon and rings. It is commendable how Cassini stood strong and collected the most valuable data about Saturn and its moons.
After a journey spanning around 20 years including the time to reach the orbit, Cassini ran out of fuel which would have meant that it would progress uninterrupted for years without capturing and sending any data. Since it would add to the debris out there, NASA decided to give it a final dive of death and that is when the orbiter was instructed to plunge into the atmosphere of this giant planet. Before plunging to its death, Cassini sent the last and stunning mosaic image of Saturn and the exact position where it was intended to crash-land. The orbiter took the mosaic photo of Saturn from more than 640,000km sing red, green, and blue spectral filters that mimic near-natural color photo which was sent to the Earth at the mission control.
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.