The Cassini probe crashed on Saturn a few months ago, but we can still discover some of the thousands of images sent back to Earth. One of them even reveals the place where the probe disappeared from the radar.
After nearly 20 years of good and loyal service and multiple discoveries, the Cassini probe completed its mission on September 15, 2017 by plunging into the atmosphere of Saturn, before dying. If the mission is over, researchers are still busy looking at the data sent to Earth by the probe. These include a mosaic of images captured by Cassini’s cameras. One of them indicates in particular where the probe would enter the atmosphere of Saturn a few hours later.
The above image was taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera on September 14, 2017, when the spacecraft was approximately 634,000 km from Saturn. Red, green and blue spectral filters were used for this photo, so that we can admire the scene in almost natural colors.
The Cassini mission was amazing. After reaching Saturn’s system on July 1, 2004, the probe began a series of orbits around the planet, also flying over several of its moons. At the forefront are Titan – the largest – and Enceladus which, as suggested by the data returned by Cassini, could potentially harbor microbial life forms.
On Titan, Cassini revealed to us lakes and seas of methane, the existence of a methanogenic cycle (similar to the hydrological cycle of the Earth) as well as the presence of organic molecules. On Encelade, Cassini was able to examine the mysterious plumes emanating from the South Pole, revealing that they extended to the inner ocean of the moon and contained organic molecules, but also hydrated minerals.
For fun, I invite you to (re) see one of the most beautiful captures of the probe. In this view of 2009, the icy moon Rhea passes Titan. Some differences between the two moons are easily apparent. While Rhea is a world without air, the nitrogen-rich atmosphere of Titan clearly appears around it.