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  • News

    Saturn’s ‘ring rain’ is a surprising cocktail of chemicals

    The “ring rain” of material falling from Saturn’s rings into the planet’s atmosphere is a much more intense, contaminated downpour than scientists thought.

    For decades, astronomers have suspected that Saturn’s rings pelt the planet with grains of water ice, but some of the final observations from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft provide the first detailed views of these celestial showers (SN: 4...

    10/04/2018 - 14:00 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • News

    5 things we’ve learned about Saturn since Cassini died

    THE WOODLANDS, Texas — It’s been six months since NASA’s Cassini spacecraft plunged to its doom in the atmosphere of Saturn, but scientists didn’t spend much time mourning. They got busy, analyzing the spacecraft’s final data.

    The Cassini mission ended September 15, 2017, after more than 13 years orbiting Saturn (SN Online: 9/15/17). The spacecraft’s final 22 orbits, dubbed the Grand...

    03/20/2018 - 15:30 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • Science Ticker

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

    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...

    11/22/2017 - 06:00 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • News

    R.I.P. Cassini

    PASADENA, Calif. — Cassini went down fighting.

    After 20 years in space and 13 years orbiting Saturn, the veteran spacecraft spent its last 90 seconds or so firing its thrusters as hard as it could to keep sending Saturnian secrets back to Earth for as long as possible.

    The spacecraft entered Saturn’s atmosphere at about 3:31 a.m. PDT on September 15 and immediately began running...

    09/15/2017 - 09:08 Astronomy, Planetary Science, Astrobiology
  • Science Ticker

    These are Cassini’s parting shots of the Saturn system

    Here are the final images from Cassini’s last look around the Saturn system.

    In its last hours before plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, the Cassini spacecraft turned its cameras to the mission team’s favorite objects: the hydrocarbon-shrouded moon Titan, the geyser moon Enceladus and, of course, the majestic rings.

    After sending these raw images back to Earth, Cassini reconfigured...

    09/15/2017 - 00:09 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • Science Ticker

    The Cassini probe dies tomorrow. Here’s how to follow its end

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    It’s not every day that a spacecraft gets vaporized by the very planet it sought to explore.

    After 13 years studying Saturn and its moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will plunge into the ringed gas giant’s atmosphere. The mission will come to a close at about 7:55 a.m. EDT (4:55 a.m. PDT) Friday, when Saturn’s atmosphere pushes Cassini’s antenna away from Earth,...

    09/14/2017 - 14:30 Planetary Science
  • Science Ticker

    So long, Titan. Cassini snaps parting pics of Saturn’s largest moon

    The Cassini spacecraft has snapped its penultimate pics of Saturn’s moon Titan.

    This image, shot September 11 as Cassini swung past the moon at a distance of about 119,049 kilometers, shows Titan’s lake region near its north pole. “The haze has cleared remarkably as the summer solstice has approached,” Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker said in a news conference September 13.

    ...

    09/13/2017 - 16:05 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • Science Ticker

    Final flyby puts Cassini on a collision course with Saturn

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    After one last swing past Titan, the Cassini spacecraft is now plunging to its doom. At 3:04 p.m. EDT (12:04 p.m. PDT) on September 11, the spacecraft used a gravitational nudge from Saturn’s largest moon to set itself on a collision course with the giant planet’s atmosphere on September 15.

    Cassini’s last close flyby of Titan on April 21 curved the spacecraft’s orbit to...

    09/11/2017 - 16:00 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • Feature

    As Cassini’s tour of Saturn draws to a close, a look back at postcards from the probe

    Take a bow, Cassini. It’s been a marathon performance: 20 years in space, more than 200 orbits around Saturn, and hundreds of thousands of images of the giant planet, its splashy rings and its many moons. On September 15, the veteran spacecraft will use its last burst of fuel to plunge into the sixth planet from the sun. Scientists and space enthusiasts around the world will watch it go with...

    08/23/2017 - 15:45 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • Context

    The first Cassini to explore Saturn was a person

    As the Cassini spacecraft plunges toward its death on Saturn, the world’s knowledge of the famous ringed planet continues to accumulate. Thanks to years of observations by the versatile probe, astronomers now know Saturn as intimately as macaroni knows cheese. But still hardly anyone outside the world of astronomy knows anything about Cassini — and I don’t mean the spacecraft, but the guy it...

    05/15/2017 - 07:00 History of Science, Astronomy