For the past twelve years, Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft has orbited Saturn, taking a number of the most detailed pictures of the superior planet yet captured. Now, it is time for the spacecraft, launched in 1997, to retire -but not before diving through unknown regions and grazing past edges of the planet’s main rings. throughout its journey , Cassini has created numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean within Enceladus and liquid methane seas on
Titan. Engineers have been pumping up the spacecraft’s orbit around Saturn this year to extend its tilt with respect to the planet’s equator and rings. Following a gravitational nudge from Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini will enter the primary phase of the mission’s dramatic endgame on Th . “We’re calling this phase Cassini’s `Ring-Grazing Orbits’, as a result of we’ll be skimming past the outer reaches of the rings,“ aforementioned Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA. “In addition, we’ve two instruments that can sample particles and gasses as we cross the ring plane, thus in a sense Cassini is also `grazing’ on the rings,“ said Spilker.
Cassini will circle over and under the poles of Saturn until Aprill twenty-two next year, diving every seven prosecuting officer ys a complete of twenty times through the unknown region at the outer edges of the most rings. during the primary two orbits, the spacecraft can pass directly through an extremely faint ring produced by little meteors striking the two little moons Janus and Epimetheus. Ring crossings in March and April will send the spacecraft through the dusty outer reaches of the F ring, that marks the outer boundary of the most ring system. “Even though we’re flying closer to the F ring than we ever have, we’ll still be more than 7,800 kilometers distant,“ said earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL.