While Cassini is often celebrated in the popular literature for its stunning photographs of Saturn’s rings, its more unique contributions have advanced our understanding of the planet’s moons.
An artist’s illustration of Cassini zooming in towards Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
After 13 years orbiting Saturn, its majestic rings and plethora of moons, the Cassini space probe will make a headlong dive into the gas giant and burn up on September 15. NASA has dubbed the event the ‘Grand Finale’.
The probe’s instruments will be awake during its final mission, transmitting data about Saturn’s atmosphere to scientists on Earth, until they’re fried to a crisp by the heat and pressure.
For over a decade, the Cassini probe has been humankind’s foremost eye in the outer Solar System. It has studied the planet, its rings and its 62 moons in fine detail. Almost everything we know about them is because of the probe, and we know a crazy lot now than we did before Cassini.
Cassini was named for the Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who discovered four of Saturn’s moons in the mid- to late-17th century. It was a joint operation between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency ...