nsucurrent.com April 25, 2018

2 key things Cassini discovered on mission to Saturn

25 April 2017, 12:57 | Shelley Chandler

Cassini snaps a familiar object between Saturn's rings

Cassini heading towards final close encounter with Titan

NASA has released a new image of earth clicked from Saturn's Icy Rings, where it can be seen only as a point of light.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully made its 127th and last close encounter with Saturn's hazy moon last week, enabling scientists to get their first glimpses of Titan's seas, weather patterns and rippling sand dunes.

By destroying the spacecraft, NASA will ensure that any hitchhiking Earth microbes still alive on Cassini will not contaminate the moons for future study. On Wednesday (April 26), Cassini will begin the Grand Finale phase of its mission, performing the first of 22 dives between Saturn's cloud tops and the gas giant's innermost ring.

"Cassini's up-close exploration of Titan is now behind us, but the rich volume of data the spacecraft has collected will fuel scientific study for decades to come", Linda Spilker, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement Monday. The mission is supposed to be all about Saturn but while Cassini-Huygens is traveling around Saturn, the scientist found something rare on the Saturn's moons, the Titan and Enceladus.

During this observation Cassini was looking toward the backlit rings, making a mosaic of multiple images, with the sun blocked by the disk of Saturn. The Ithaca Chasm is up to 60 miles wide and about 660 miles long, which is nearly three-fourths of the icy moon's surface. Launched in 1997 as a joint NASA/European Space Agency mission, it took seven years to journey to Saturn. "The canyon has a maximum depth of almost 2.4 miles (4 kilometers) deep".

Cassini is the most sophisticated space probe ever built. The European Geosciences Union will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. GMT (9:30 a.m. EDT) Tuesday to preview the Grand Finale and to talk about some of Cassini's many achievements over the past 13 years.

If all goes well, Cassini will repeat that orbit on a weekly basis until September 15, collecting samples of Saturn's atmosphere and measuring its mass and weight in the process, according to The Verge.

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