Cassini's six-month-long Grand Finale mission has become the unofficial nerd Super Bowl: each time the NASA-led spacecraft drops a new batch of raw images, we jump to our computers and frantically scroll through to find the best. (Actually, we never leave our computers, because we are nerds.) But in any case, the raw photos from Cassini's second dive into the gap between Saturn and its rings are now available — and honestly, they might even be better than the first round.
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Today, Cassini prepares to once again boldly go where no spacecraft has gone before: into the gap between Saturn and its rings. While we're all excited to see the the results of Cassini's second dive, astronomers are still parsing through the findings from her first. And some, including a soundscape generated from the emptiness, are pretty freaky.
Earth is exhausting — excruciatingly so, if you're a young curmudgeon like me. At times, performing even the most mundane tasks, like commuting on a crowded, smelly subway car, feels like an Olympic marathon designed to test one's patience. Space compels us because it forces us to think outside this myopic view of ourselves — not in a "Dust in the Wind" way, but in the sense that we're tiny flecks of star stuff lucky to be members of something so vast and incredible.
Image Cache: Sometimes, the majesty of the final frontier — a cold, unfeeling space — has the power to make our eyes misty. The images from NASA's Cassini mission have often been able to do this, and since the spacecraft is dying soon, it makes the experience all the more emotional. Before it goes out in a blaze of glory, Cassini has been sending back some of the most incredible images of Saturn and its moons — but one of its latest from Saturn's rings is especially spectacular.
Saturn's moon Enceladus features a warm subterranean ocean covered in ice. In an extraordinary new finding, scientists have confirmed the existence of a chemical energy source within this moon's water that's capable of sustaining living organisms here on Earth. Enceladus is now officially the best place beyond Earth to look for life.
Saturn is having a moment. Today, NASA announced that one of its moons, Enceladus, has the key ingredients to support microbial life. Around the same time, NASA's Cassini spacecraft dropped some jaw-dropping images of another one of Saturn's quirky moons, and while this one may not have a subterranean ocean, it sure is an adorable little pasta.
Image Cache: Alas, all good things must come to an end. Today, NASA will announce the details regarding its Cassini spacecraft's Grand Finale — a resplendent ending to its 20-year-long adventure in space, which will begin later this month. From late April to September 15, Cassini will perform 22 dramatic dives between Saturn and its rings. Then, the brave little orbiter will plunge itself into Saturn's atmosphere and burn up like a meteor — all while sending information back to Earth.
Since it launched in 1997, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been giving us unprecedented views of Saturn and its (many) moons. But this week, the intrepid orbiter outdid itself by capturing some adorable images of Saturn's tiny moon, Pan. In Greek mythology, Pan was the god of shepherds, which is appropriate considering the clingy world acts as a "shepherd moon" of Saturn, clearing out the 325km-wide Encke Gap within the gas giant's A Ring.
Saturn's tiny moon friend, Daphnis, is finally getting its close-up. In a stunning new image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, the elusive moon can be seen peeking out from within the Keeler gap of Saturn's rings. According to NASA, the image was taken in visible (green) light by Cassini's narrow-angle camera.
As the Cassini spacecraft executes its final daredevil maneuvers, scientists on both sides of the Atlantic are already thinking about the next mission to Saturn. But this time around, nobody's talking about studying the gas giant itself. They're talking about hunting for life in Saturn's rings.
Last week, the Cassini spacecraft began a series of dramatic, "ring-grazing orbits" that will see it fly high over Saturn's poles before diving perilously close to the gas giant's rings. Now, NASA has received back the first images from this exciting chapter in Cassini's last year of life — and they do not disappoint.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has given us some incredible images of Saturn, and its latest gift is no exception. Taken from above, the black-and-white photo makes the Ringed Planet look like a peaceful orb enclosed by its belted friends.