NASA Captures 4 Saturn Days on Video as Cassini Prepares for its 'Death Dive'
NASA's Cassini mission may end September next year, but the spacecraft is just preparing for its Grand Finale. Cassini just captured four Saturn days in a time-lapse video and the footage is nothing short of mesmerizing.
In a span of 44 hours, Cassini and the cameras onboard the spacecraft managed to capture four Saturn days. The video was captured from April 25 to April 26, 2016 while the spacecraft stayed in the planet's atmosphere.
Days on Saturn are drastically different from Earth. A whole Saturn day is equivalent to 10.5 hours. In the video, Saturn and its ring are seen moving in a steady pattern while oval-shaped storms were seen moving along with the planet's orbit. The innermost fainter rings and the planet's shadows are the visual market of the video, proving that it is indeed moving.
Interestingly, the hexagon formation on the planet's North Pole is also visible in the video. The hexagon shape is a product of six jet streams located in the northern region. Fun fact, the sides of the hexagon alone are already bigger than the Earth.
These are just the start of Cassini's epic final year in Saturn. Cassini just entered its final year, a year the spacecraft will spend to perform the "Grand Finale," a series of dives into the space between the planet and its rings in order to collect data that scientists have never seen before.
"The spacecraft will repeatedly climb high above Saturn's poles, flying just outside its narrow F ring 20 times. After a last targeted Titan flyby, the spacecraft will then dive between Saturn's uppermost atmosphere and its innermost ring 22 times," said Brian Dunbar, a NASA official in an official statement.
The series of dives will be performed before Cassini plunges to its death in September next year. The Cassini mission was launched in Oct. 15, 1997. Since then, it has performed a ton o observation concerning Saturn, its rings and its moons including Titan, a satellite said to have the right chemistry for life.