Nasa releases video of the first of Cassini's "Grand Finale" orbits around Saturn

Nasa's Cassini mission has beamed back images from the first of its "Grand Finale" dives around Saturn. The series of 22 orbits are known as the "Grand Finale" dives as the spacecraft will plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn at the end of the orbits. There is not enough plutonium fuel left on the spacecraft to maintain control of the spacecraft, which means that Cassini could potentially contaminate the moons of Saturn, which may harbour life. The images were compiled into a video and released by Nasa.

The orbit starts from the North Pole of Saturn, showing the hexagonal jet streams. The spacecraft was out of contact with the Earth during the maneuver as the dish shaped communications antenna served double duty as a shield from potential particles in the region between Saturn and its ring system. The region was discovered to be relatively free of particles larger than one micron in diameter, about the size of the particles that make up smoke.

The Northern Hemisphere of Saturn imaged by Cassini using different spectral filters. Image: NASA.

The Northern Hemisphere of Saturn imaged by Cassini using different spectral filters. Image: NASA.

Kunio Sayanagi, an associate of the Cassini imaging team said "I was surprised to see so many sharp edges along the hexagon's outer boundary and the eye-wall of the polar vortex. Something must be keeping different latitudes from mixing to maintain those edges." Cassini is a collaborative effort by Nasa, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).


Published Date: May 05, 2017 02:33 pm | Updated Date: May 05, 2017 02:33 pm