Considered as one of the most successful mission of NASA (in collaboration with ESA and ASI) , the Cassini Huygens Mission ended in September last year. Launched on October 15, 1997 Cassini was active in space for 20 years with 13 years spent orbiting Saturn. The mission revealed many secrets about the gas giant. At the end of its mission, the Cassini spacecraft executed the “Grand Finale” of its mission: a number of risky passes through the gaps between Saturn and Saturn’s inner rings. The purpose of this phase was to maximize Cassini‘s scientific outcome before the spacecraft was disposed. The atmospheric entry of Cassini ended the mission, but analyses of the returned data will continue for many years.
Let us relish some of the stunning images that the spacecraft captured over the years
1. In Saturn’s Shadow (February 3, 2016)
With giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the sun’s blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before, revealing previously unknown faint rings and even glimpsing its home world.
2. Splendid Saturn (February 28, 2005)
Cassini offers this lovely, crisp view of Saturn, which shows detail in the planet’s banded atmosphere, as well as the delicate ring system.
The image has been rotated so that north on Saturn is up; the Sun illuminates Saturn from below. Saturn’s tilt throws ghostly shadows of the rings onto the northern hemisphere during the current season.
3. Not Really Starless at Saturn (July 18, 2016)
Saturn’s main rings, along with its and moons, are much brighter than most stars. As a result, much shorter exposure times (10 milliseconds, in this case) are required to produce an image and not saturate the detectors of the imaging cameras on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. A longer exposure would be required to capture the stars as well. Dione (698 miles, 1123 kilometers across) and Epimetheus (70 miles, 113 kilometers across) are seen in this view, above the rings at left and right respectively.
4. Marvelous Mini-Jet (September 16, 2013)
A beautiful ”mini-jet” appears in the dynamic F ring of Saturn. Saturn’s A ring (including the Keeler gap and just a hint of the Encke gap at the upper-right) also appears.
The mini-jets are thought by imaging scientists to be caused by low-speed collisions in the F ring ejecting dusty material from the ring’s core.
5. The Day the Earth Smiled (July 22, 2013)
In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. It is only one footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system (including Saturn itself). At each footprint, images were taken in different spectral filters for a total of 323 images: some were taken for scientific purposes and some to produce a natural color mosaic. This is the only wide-angle footprint that has the Earth-moon system in it.
6. Ring World (March 1, 2007)
The robotic emissary, flying high above Saturn, captured this view of an alien copper-colored ring world. The overexposed planet has deliberately been removed to show the unlit rings alone, seen from an elevation of 60 degrees, the highest Cassini has yet attained.
7. Flying By the ‘Death Star’ Moon (March 29, 2010)
In this view captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on its closest-ever flyby of Saturn’s moon Mimas, large Herschel Crater dominates Mimas, making the moon look like the Death Star in the movie “Star Wars”.
8. Encke’s Kinks (November 15, 2006)
Bright, kinked ringlets fill the Encke Gap, while the F ring glows brilliantly and displays its signature knots and flanking, diffuse ringlets.
This view looks toward the unlit side of the rings from about 13 degrees above the ringplane.
9. Serene Saturn (May 11, 2015)
From a distance Saturn seems to exude an aura of serenity and peace.
In spite of this appearance, Saturn is an active and dynamic world. Its atmosphere is a fast-moving and turbulent place with wind speeds in excess of 1,100 miles per hour (1,800 km per hour) in places. The lack of a solid surface to create drag means that there are fewer features to slow down the wind than on a planet like Earth.
10. Satellite Trio (November 10, 2005)
This excellent grouping of three moons –Dione, Tethys and Pandora– near the rings provides a sampling of the diversity of worlds that exists in Saturn’s realm.