OPEN APP
Home >Science >Health >Nasa’s Cassini sends first view from inside Saturn’s rings as finale starts
Nasa officials are not certain Cassini will survive all its ring dives. Photo: Reuters
Nasa officials are not certain Cassini will survive all its ring dives. Photo: Reuters

Nasa’s Cassini sends first view from inside Saturn’s rings as finale starts

Nasa's Cassini spacecraft sends the closest-ever images of Saturn after surviving its first plunge inside the planet's rings as grand finale starts

Cape Canaveral, Florida: Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft sent the closest-ever images of Saturn on Thursday after surviving its first plunge inside the planet’s rings, the US space agency said.

A stream of pictures showing Saturn’s swirling clouds, massive hurricane and odd six-sided vortex weather system were transmitted back to Earth by Cassini, which has been exploring Saturn for 13 years.

Now in its final laps around Saturn, Cassini dove through the narrow gap between the planet and its innermost ring on Wednesday, where no spacecraft has ever gone before. It was the first of 22 planned close encounters to bring the robotic probe into unexplored territory between Saturn’s cloud tops and its rings.

“Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare," National Aeronautics and Space Administration planetary sciences chief Jim Green said in a statement.

Cassini is expected to photograph several small inner moons and study the planet’s winds, clouds, auroras and gravity. The information could help scientists find the source of Saturn’s magnetic field, determine how fast the gas giant rotates and figure out what lies beneath its layers of clouds.

This combination of 26 April 2017 images show features in Saturn’s atmosphere from closer than ever before. The view was captured by Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft as it became the first spacecraft to venture between Saturn and its rings. Photo: AP/Nasa
View Full Image
This combination of 26 April 2017 images show features in Saturn’s atmosphere from closer than ever before. The view was captured by Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft as it became the first spacecraft to venture between Saturn and its rings. Photo: AP/Nasa

Nasa officials are not certain Cassini will survive all its ring dives. The gap between Saturn and the rings is about 1,500 miles (2,400 km) wide and likely littered with ice particles.

Cassini is travelling through the gap at a relative speed of about some 77,000 mph (124,000 kph) so even small particles striking the spacecraft can be deadly.

To protect itself, Cassini’s dish-shaped communications antenna was temporarily repositioned to serve as a shield. The spacecraft will make similar manoeuvres during its subsequent dives, the next of which is scheduled for Tuesday.

A computer artist’s rendering of Cassini spacecraft. Photo: Reuters/Nasa
View Full Image
A computer artist’s rendering of Cassini spacecraft. Photo: Reuters/Nasa

On its final dive on 15 September, Cassini is slated to destroy itself by flying directly into Saturn’s crushing atmosphere.

During its first pass inside the rings, Cassini came within about 1,900 miles (3,000 km) from the top of Saturn’s clouds and within 200 miles (300 km) of its innermost ring.

Also Read: Nasa’s Cassini starts finale with first dive between Saturn’s rings

Cassini has been probing Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun, and its entourage of 62 known moons since July 2004, but is running low on fuel.

Nasa plans to crash the spacecraft into Saturn to avoid any chance Cassini could someday collide with any ocean-bearing moons that have the potential to support indigenous microbial life. Reuters

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Click here to read the Mint ePaperMint is now on Telegram. Join Mint channel in your Telegram and stay updated with the latest business news.

Close
×
Edit Profile
My Reads Redeem a Gift Card Logout