Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist, The Planetary Society
The Cassini Mission has less than two months to go before it ends with a spectacular plunge into the beautiful ringed world. Planetary Society Senior Editor Emily Lakdawalla has prepared a guide to the last orbits by the historic spacecraft. Bill Nye provides examples from his new book of how we will benefit from space applications and the way nerds solve problems. His impressions may not be ready for prime time, but Bruce Betts’ guide to the night sky and Random Space Facts are always entertaining.
NASA / JPL / SSI / Emily Lakdawalla
Fine-scale waves in Saturn's rings
Cassini took this photo on June 4, 2017, close to periapsis on its seventh "Grand Finale" orbit, when it passed between the planet and the rings. It has been cleaned of cosmic ray hits and detector noise.
In the early hours of April 13, 2017, Cassini captured this breathtaking and unique visage of the Saturnian system as it coasted through space in the shadow of the gas giant.
Using its Wide-Angle Camera (part of the Imaging Science Subsystem), Cassini snapped 96 individual digital photos: these images consisted of Red, Green, and Blue-filtered frames, covering a total of 32 ‘footprints’. These 32 color frames were painstakingly combined to produce the final mosaic.
Cassini took nearly four hours to collect these data. In that time, the spacecraft was slowly cruising away from the planet, en route to apoapse (the point farthest from Saturn in any given orbit) of Revolution 269. The distance to the planet increased by 82,000 km in that time, and in the end, the distance to the cloud-tops equaled 650,040 km.