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The Cassini Probe Returns Yet Another Stunning Close-Up Of Saturn

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27/01/2017 11:26 | Updated 25 April 2017

NASA’s Cassini probe has returned yet another stunning close-up of Saturn’s atmosphere, after beginning its death-defying journey through the gas giant’s iconic rings a few weeks back. 

Cassini probe

Over the next nine months, the probe will dive through the vast belts of rock as it prepares to dump itself in Saturn’s atmosphere.

NASA scientists are set upon ditching the craft before it runs out of fuel, to preempt a collision with one of the planet’s 53 moons. 

There’s a chance that Enceladus and Titan might harbour life, and a satellite from Earth poses a major contamination risk.

In December, Cassini returned a series of images of Saturn’s northern hemisphere, showing off its hexagonal jet stream and stormy centre.

NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE

Before it crashes out, Cassini is expected to capture more stunning photographs and a rich pool of data about Saturn. 

Magnetic field instrument principal investigator, Prof Michele Dougherty, told the BBC: “One of the big outstanding questions at Saturn, for example, is: we don’t know how long a day is. We have a large error. It’s 10.7 hours plus or minus 0.2 hours.

“Come and ask me afterwards but I think what we learn about the internal structure of the planet could be among the great discoveries of mission.”

NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE
NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE
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