After spending 20 years in service, the Cassini spacecraft plunged into the atmosphere of Saturn on September 15, 2017. He spent 13 years in the system, extracting valuable information about the gas giant, its rings and the lunar family. Therefore, his grand finale was a sad event for the leaders of the mission.
Despite the completion of the project, scientists are still studying the data. These include a mosaic of the latest images captured by Cassini cameras. They indicate the place of immersion in the atmosphere of the planet.
From the very beginning, the mission looked more like a risky game than a measured plan. Cassini arrived at the Saturn system on July 1, 2004. A few burns allowed to get closer to Titan and Enceladus. The presence of methane lakes and seas, the methanogenic cycle, organic molecules and prebiotic chemistry were recorded on the first moon. And Enceladus demonstrated amazing jets at the South Pole, in which organic molecules and hydrated minerals were captured.
Cassini probe crash site in Saturn’s atmosphere (white circle)
These findings inspired the creation of future missions that will study the moons. This can be an analysis of the surface and atmosphere of Titan using aerial platforms or diving into the sea.
Cassini also talked a lot about the atmosphere of Saturn, including the persistent hexagonal storm around the north pole. During the period of completion, the apparatus carried out 22 orbits between the planet and the rings, showing the ring system from the outside. The images were taken on September 14, 2017 on a wide-angle camera at a distance of 634,000 km.
To create the mosaic used data from the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer Cassini. He managed to show the exact coordinates of the entrance of the ship: 9.4 degrees north latitude at 53 degrees west longitude.