Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Get a glimpse of final Saturn images captured by Cassini

Over and out Cassini meets fiery death after 20-year space adventure			
				 
   by Paul Miles 
  Published Over and out Cassini meets fiery death after 20-year space adventure by Paul Miles Published
Heather Davidson | 16 September, 2017, 01:13

Larry Esposito, LASP's principal investigator on the UVIS instrument, was at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for the Cassini finale, and greeted the audience back at CU via a live feed, about 20 minutes before the spacecraft's swan song. The instrument also imaged Jupiter on Cassini's path to Saturn, beginning in 2000, from more than half an astronomical unit-about 50 million miles-away.

"Even though we'll know that, at Saturn, Cassini has already met its fate, its mission isn't truly over for us on Earth as long as we're still receiving its signal", Maize said. Though their mission ended today, the Cassini team has gifted humanity intimate views of arguably the most fascinating planet in the solar system.

When Mate Adamkovics' astronomy and physics students go on to brilliant careers, they can attribute at least part of their professional knowledge to a lovely workhorse of a 20 Century spaceship called Cassini. Its remarkable 20-year mission was full of discovery and cosmic glory, and is the only spacecraft to ever orbit Saturn.

Possel said that, for him, a highlight of the mission was the discovery of water on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Project officials invited ground telescopes to look for Cassini's last-gasp flash, but weren't hopeful it would be spotted against the vast backdrop of the solar system's second largest planet. "The discoveries are so compelling, we have to go back". "Cassini and this mission was ideal", he said. But, the six-ton and $3.25 billion probe was able to confirm and discover the unimaginable. Earlier this week, NASA flew Cassini past Titan one last time, taking advantage of the moon's gravitational pull to slingshot the spacecraft toward Saturn. With scorching-hot temperatures searing its instruments, the hardy probe held on during the dive into Saturn.

Before INCA, spacecraft obtained what is known as fields-and-particles data from its local surroundings-the area in which the spacecraft was then operating. That's when radio signals from the spacecraft - its last scientific gifts to Earth - came to an abrupt halt.

"For me, it's a happy day because we got data until yesterday, science data", Jouchoux said.

The mission was fantastic to be sure.

"It's a sad moment, but it was a fantastic mission". I took this wonderful mission, this gold and white explorer in the realm of giant planets, for granted.

The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini (e-Book)
Cassini to wrap up 20-year space mission with fiery Friday finale (audio)

Cassini's engineers determined that the spacecraft would encounter so much aerodynamic stress during its 76,000-mph dive that it would break up and vaporize even before hitting Saturn's cloud tops.

Launched in October 1997, Cassini completed its initial four-year mission to explore the Saturn system in June 2008, and the first extension, called the Cassini Equinox Mission, in September 2010. "We went all the way, no problem".

"The truths that we learned, and the things that we tried", they crooned at a meeting of the Project Science Group this week.

"To me, it's the fact that there's an ocean underneath a crust of ice, and we had no idea that it was there before we had Cassini", Possel said. In 2010 he wrote about what the mission found in Titan Unveiled, and this year he captured what he described as "all the nerdy details of the spacecraft development and operation" in the Cassini-Huygens Owners Workshop Manual.

Just a few days ago, I saw Saturn through a high-powered telescope from Central Park at Starfest, an event hosted by the Amateur Astronomers Association of NY. The spacecraft studied Saturn's atmosphere and took measurements to determine the size of the planet's rocky core. Titan shone as a brilliant speck nearby.

Although the spacecraft may be gone, the sheer volume of information sent back from Cassini over its lifetime will have researchers busy for decades.

So do I, Zadie.

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