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NASA Cassini Beams Back New Stunning Images of Saturn's Rings

Feb 01, 2017 08:49 AM EST
Cassini Probe Sends Pictures Of Saturn
Simulations find that Saturn acts as a protecter for Earth, deflecting meteors and asteroids that would otherwise have crashed into the planet.
(Photo : NASA/Getty Images)

Cassini is at it again! From sending never-before-seen images of Saturn's hidden moons, the spacecraft just beamed stunning close-up images of Saturn's rings. The image, taken by Cassini during its recent flyby, is considered to be the most detailed images of the planet's rings.

The NASA Cassini mission is currently performing "ring-grazing" to capture images of Saturn, its rings and its moon from a different perspective. The "ring-grazing" is a vital part of the mission and will be completed before Cassini signs off for good.

The new images were taken while the spacecraft is close to Saturn's rings; thus, creating stunning and detailed photographs of the rings. The photos taken by Cassini are now considered as the closest-ever images of the outer part of Saturn's main rings.

"All planetary rings are made of icy rubble as small as talcum powder all the way up to the size of apartment buildings," planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, Cassini's imaging team leader, said in an interview with iForbes.

Notable features were identified using the images like "straw" and "propellers," said NASA. These features have already been spotted before; however, this is the first time they were photographed in great detail.

"Some of the structures seen in recent Cassini images have not been visible at this level of detail since the spacecraft arrived at Saturn in mid-2004," a NASA official said in a statement from the space agency. "At that time, fine details like straw and propellers -- which are caused by clumping ring particles and small, embedded moonlets, respectively -- had never been seen before. Although propellers were present in Cassini's arrival images, they were actually discovered in later analysis, the following year."

The images taken by the cameras onboard Cassini have details as small as 0.3 miles (550 meters). Cassini is almost halfway done with the "ring-grazing." The remaining flybys are expected to deliver more stunning images and discoveries about the planet. With a total of 22 orbits that started last November in 2016, the "ring-grazing" will end in April. By April 26, the spacecraft is expected to perform its death dive. It will plunge to its death to signal the end of the mission.

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