The movie sequence in images obtained from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft portray views of Cassini swooping over Saturn throughout the first in its Grand Finale of dives between the mysterious planet and its rings last April 26.
As its cameras were pointed towards the sky, the Cassini craft took some insanely interesting and somewhat creepy photos during its second great dive between the planet’s rings, as the sun remained behind the Jovian planet.
The agency went on to explain that in its second dive through the craft’s last 22 orbits prior to crashing into Saturn:
“Cassini’s imaging cameras, the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS), takes advantage of the last opportunity to observe Saturn’s rings at extremely high phase angles while the Sun is hidden behind Saturn, allowing the instrument to survey faint ringlets in the main rings, many of which are difficult to observe outside of this geometry. The ISS also collects images to produce a movie to monitor various structures in Saturn’s D ring.”
Throughout the orbit, Cassini got within around 1,820 miles of nearing Saturn’s outer atmosphere, as well as within about 2,980 miles nearing its D ring inner edge.
“No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before. We could only rely on predictions, based on our experience with Saturn’s other rings, of what we thought this gap between the rings and Saturn would be like,” stated Earl Maize, manager of the Cassini Project in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory located in Pasadena, California.
“I am delighted to report that Cassini shot through the gap just as we planned and has come out the other side in excellent shape.”
This is only the second of 22 grand finale dives the spacecraft will be taking in its last run around the mysterious planet.