You’re going to see a lot of news in the next couple days about the space probe Cassini and its “Grand Finale,” which is finally coming to an end. What’s it all about?
Cassini is a space probe launched in 1997 to explore Saturn. It took her seven years to get there (the first thing she did was head the opposite direction, to Venus, to pick up some momentum!) but she arrived safely in 2004. She’s been out there collecting data and taking picture for us ever since!
Some amazing things Cassini has done so far:
She discovered new moons, Methone, Pallene, and Aegaeon!
She carried the space probe Huygens most of the way to its successful landing on Saturn’s moon Titan!
She discovered water (definitely vapor, and probably liquid too) on the moon Enceladus!
She took amazing photos of Saturn, allowing us to see previously undiscovered rings!
She found oxygen on the moons Rhea and Dione, the first time we’ve found it anywhere but earth!
She dove between Saturn and its rings!
Her 20 year mission ends this week, when she dives toward Saturn for the last time and burns up in the atmosphere.
What’s the timeline for the end of the Cassini mission?
It’s already started! The Grand Finale stage of the mission officially began back in April. We’re now entering the final hours.
September 9: Cassini passed between Saturn and its rings for the last time
September 11: Cassini completed her final flyby of Titan
September 13/14: Cassini takes her final photos of Saturn and its rings
September 14: Cassini begins its continuous data transmission to earth. This will last until the mission completes.
September 15: Cassini enters Saturn’s atmosphere.
Why are we sending her to burn up?
We’re sending her to do so much more than that! She’ll be collecting and transmitting data to earth until the very last moments—data we couldn’t get any other way.
And the data she’s already given us make this mission conclusion (though a little wistful) very important! By burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere, she guarantees that the potential life (supported by the water she discovered) on Saturn’s moons will remain uncontaminated by ay microbes that may have hitched a ride from earth.
If you don’t think that’s the raddest shit, I don’t know what to tell you!
And I’m back on the Challenge! Here is my plant witch, she is in fact a witchy version of my elvish OC Rhëa! It’s been a long time since I wanted to draw her as a modern witch *^*)/ Hope you’ll like her!
Saturn has 62 natural satellites. Here are some features of some of its moons, with mountains, valleys, and striking marks on their surfaces, often marked by asteroid bombardments causing small, huge craters.
Iapetus - Equatorial ridge
Iapetus’s equatorial ridge was discovered when the Cassini spacecraft imaged Iapetus on 31 December 2004. Peaks in the ridge rise more than 20 km above the surrounding plains, making them some of the tallest mountains in the Solar System. The ridge forms a complex system including isolated peaks, segments of more than 200 km and sections with three near parallel ridges.
Tethys - Odysseus crater
Odysseus is the largest crater on Saturn’s moon Tethys. It is 445 km across, more than 2/5 of the moon’s diameter, and is one of the largest craters in the Solar System.
Tethys - Ithaca Chasma
Ithaca Chasma is a valley (graben) on Saturn’s moon Tethys, named after the island of Ithaca, in Greece. It is up to 100 km wide, 3 to 5 km deep and 2,000 km long, running approximately three-quarters of the way around Tethys’ circumference, making it one of the longer valleys in the Solar System. Ithaca Chasma is approximately concentric with Odysseus crater.
Tethys - Red arcs
Unusual arc-shaped, reddish streaks cut across the surface of Saturn’s ice-rich moon Tethys in this enhanced-color mosaic. The red streaks are narrow, curved lines on the moon’s surface, only a few miles (or kilometers) wide but several hundred miles (or kilometers) long.
Rhea - Inktomi crater
Inktomi, also known as The Splat, is a prominent rayed impact crater 47.2 kilometres (29.3 mi) in diameter located in the southern hemisphere of Saturn’s moon Rhea.
Mimas - Herschel Crater
Herschel is a huge crater in the leading hemisphere of the Saturnian moon Mimas, on the equator at 100° longitude. It is so large that astronomers have expressed surprise that Mimas was not shattered by the impact that caused it. It measures 139 kilometres (86 miles) across, almost one third the diameter of Mimas. If there were a crater of an equivalent scale on Earth it would be over 4,000 km (2,500 mi) in diameter – wider than Canada – with walls over 200 km (120 mi) high.
Enceladus - Surface with fractures
Close up of one of the ‘tiger stripes” or fissures called Baghdad Sulcus. Both heat and occasional geysers issue from this formidable crack. Some of the material coating the landscape may be snow condensed from vapor. This closeup of the surface of Enceladus on November 21, 2009, viewed from approximately 1,260 miles (2,028 kilometers) away.
Dione - Contrasts
This image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows a part of Dione’s surface that is covered by linear, curving features, called chasmata.
One possibility is that this stress pattern may be related to Dione’s orbital evolution and the effect of tidal stresses over time. This view looks toward the trailing hemisphere of Dione.