Here is Cassini’s last broad look at the Saturn system

Cassini mosaic of Saturn

FOND FAREWELL  The Cassini spacecraft took this last look at the Saturn system two days before plunging into the giant planet’s atmosphere. 

JPL-Caltech/NASA, Space Science Institute

Two days before plunging into Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft took one last look around the planet it had orbited for more than 13 years.

The view of Saturn above, released November 21, is actually made from 42 images that have been stitched together. Six moons — Enceladus, Epimetheus, Janus, Mimas, Pandora and Prometheus — are faintly visible as dots surrounding the gas giant (see the annotated image below). Cassini was about 1.1 million kilometers away from Saturn when it took the images on September 13. The whole observation took a little over two hours.

On September 11, Cassini set itself on a collision course with Saturn, and on September 15, the probe ended its mission by burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere, taking data all the way down.

Saturn and moons
FAMILY PORTRAIT Six of Saturn’s moons are visible in the final mosaic from the Cassini spacecraft. JPL-Caltech/NASA, Space Science Institute
Lisa Grossman

Lisa Grossman is the astronomy writer. She has a degree in astronomy from Cornell University and a graduate certificate in science writing from University of California, Santa Cruz. She lives near Boston.

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