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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Some Stunning Views Of Saturn's Rings

Cosmic Speck: 

See Earth Through Saturn's Rings in Amazing Cassini Photo




The Cassini spacecraft spotted Earth as a bright speck (and the moon as a smaller speck) between Saturn's broad rings as the craft prepares for its final dive into the ringed planet's atmosphere.
Cassini was 870 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) from Earth the night of April 12-13 when it snapped this photo, which shows Earth — and the even tinier moon, a faint dot to its left — framed between the icy rings of Saturn. At the time the photo was taken, the southern Atlantic Ocean was facing the spacecraft's lens, NASA officials said in a statement.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this photo of Earth from Saturn at 1:41 a.m. EDT April 13 (0541 GMT, or 10:41 p.m. PDT on April 12) from 870 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away. At the time, the part of Earth facing Cassini was the southern Atlantic Ocean.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this photo of Earth from Saturn at 1:41 a.m. EDT April 13 (0541 GMT, or 10:41 p.m. PDT on April 12) from 870 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away. At the time, the part of Earth facing Cassini was the southern Atlantic Ocean.
Cassini has been exploring Saturn's system for 13 years, gathering data about the rings' structure and composition as well as investigating the moons in Saturn's neighborhood and the planet itself. Tonight (April 21-22) the spacecraft will swing past Saturn's largest moon, Titan, for a final time to prepare for its Grand Finale maneuver — 22 dives in between Saturn and its rings, and a final plunge into the depths of the gas giant itself.
 A zoomed-in view of the previous image helps reveal the moon as a faint speck to the left of Earth in this view of our planetary system between the rings of Saturn.
A zoomed-in view of the previous image helps reveal the moon as a faint speck to the left of Earth in this view of our planetary system between the rings of Saturn.
The outer part of Saturn's A ring is visible at the top of the photo, with its Keeler and Encke gaps, and its F ring is seen at the bottom. The Encke gap marks the path of Saturn's ravioli-shaped moon Pan, and the moon Daphnis kicks up waves in the A ring's narrower Keeler gap. The entire ring system spans 40,800 miles (65,700 km), although this photo reveals only some of the outermost ring — Saturn is far above the top of the image.
This rare image taken on July 19, 2013, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft has shows Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. At the time, Cassini was 2013 from a distance of about  898.414 million miles (1.445858 billion kilometers) from Earth. It is only one footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system (including Saturn itself) taken by Cassini's wide-angle camera.
This rare image taken on July 19, 2013, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft has shows Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. At the time, Cassini was 2013 from a distance of about 898.414 million miles (1.445858 billion kilometers) from Earth. It is only one footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system (including Saturn itself) taken by Cassini's wide-angle camera.
This isn't the first time Cassini has paused to peer at Earth during its travels: In July 2013, it grabbed a panoramic view of Saturn and its rings that featured Mars, Venus and the Earth and moon as pinpricks (here's a closer view of the Earth and moon). A "Wave at Saturn" initiative encouraged people on Earth to wave toward the ringed planet at the right moment for the image — although of course the speck looked the same regardless. Another view of Earth from Cassini appears in this gallery of experts' favorite space photos.
As Cassini edges toward its Sept, 15 dive into the planet's atmosphere, it will build detailed maps of the planet's gravitational and magnetic fields to learn more about its composition, and will measure the material in the space between the planet's D ring and its atmosphere during the 22 dives — sending its final data about the majestic ring system.
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Casini Completes Final And Fateful Titan Flyby

DAY IN REVIEW
NASA JPL latest news release
Cassini Completes Final -- and Fateful -- Titan FlybyNASA's Cassini spacecraft has had its last close brush with Saturn's hazy moon Titan and is now beginning its final set of 22 orbits around the ringed planet.
The spacecraft made its 127th and final close approach to Titan on April 21 at 11:08 p.m. PDT (2:08 a.m. EDT on April 22), passing at an altitude of about 608 miles (979 kilometers) above the moon's surface.
Cassini transmitted its images and other data to Earth following the encounter. Scientists with Cassini's radar investigation will be looking this week at their final set of new radar images of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes that spread across Titan's north polar region. The planned imaging coverage includes a region previously seen by Cassini's imaging cameras, but not by radar. The radar team also plans to use the new data to probe the depths and compositions of some of Titan's small lakes for the first (and last) time, and look for further evidence of the evolving feature researchers have dubbed the "magic island."
"Cassini's up-close exploration of Titan is now behind us, but the rich volume of data the spacecraft has collected will fuel scientific study for decades to come," said Linda Spilker, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Gateway to the Grand Finale
The flyby also put Cassini on course for its dramatic last act, known as the Grand Finale. As the spacecraft passed over Titan, the moon's gravity bent its path, reshaping the robotic probe's orbit slightly so that instead of passing just outside Saturn's main rings, Cassini will begin a series of 22 dives between the rings and the planet on April 26. The mission will conclude with a science-rich plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on Sept. 15.
"With this flyby we're committed to the Grand Finale," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL. "The spacecraft is now on a ballistic path, so that even if we were to forgo future small course adjustments using thrusters, we would still enter Saturn's atmosphere on Sept. 15 no matter what."
Cassini received a large increase in velocity of approximately 1,925 mph (precisely 860.5 meters per second) with respect to Saturn from the close encounter with Titan.
After buzzing Titan, Cassini coasted onward, reaching the farthest point in its orbital path around Saturn at 8:46 p.m. PDT (11:46 p.m. EDT) on April 22. This point, called apoapse, is where each new Cassini lap around Saturn begins. Technically, Cassini began its Grand Finale orbits at this time, but since the excitement of the finale begins in earnest on April 26 with the first ultra-close dive past Saturn, the mission is celebrating the latter milestone as the formal beginning of the finale.
The spacecraft's first finale dive will take place on April 26 at 2 a.m. PDT (5 a.m. EDT). The spacecraft will be out of contact during the dive and for about a day afterward while it makes science observations from close to the planet. The earliest time Cassini is scheduled to make radio contact with Earth is 12:05 a.m. PDT (3:05 a.m. EDT) on April 27. Images and other data are expected to begin flowing in shortly after communication is established.
A new narrated, 360-degree animated video gives viewers a sense of what it might be like to fly alongside Cassini as it makes one of its Grand Finale dives.
More information about Cassini's Grand Finale, including image and video resources, is available at:
https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/grandfinale
More information about Cassini's final Titan flyby is available at:
https://go.nasa.gov/2nFHaTo
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.
More information about the Cassini mission:
http://www.nasa.gov/cassini
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

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