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NASA Cassini Beams Back Video of First Dive, Images of Saturn's Moon Enceladus

May 05, 2017 04:15 PM EDT
Cassini's First Fantastic Dive Past Saturn
NASA published a video sequence from images taken by Cassini during its first dive in between Saturn and its rings. The spacecraft also beamed back images of Saturn's moon Enceladus.
(Photo : NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/YouTube Screenshot)

NASA released a video showing the astounding first dive that Cassini performed in between Saturn and its rings last April 26. The spacecraft also beamed back images of Saturn's moon Enceladus taken last November 2016 with what appears to be massive sprawling legs on the moon.

Cassini's onboard cameras took rapid-fire images during its dive. The images were combined to create the video sequence of the first dive. It begins with a footage of Saturn's North pole heading south.

The video, called "Cassini's First Fantastic Dive Past Saturn," was published NASA last May 3. Cassini perfectly captured the view as it swooped past Saturn during its first dive. The spacecraft needs to complete 22 dives in the "danger zone" to complete its Grand Finale mission.

The first video encapsulates one hour of observation while Cassini passed the boundary of the hexagon-shaped jet streams of Saturn and even beyond. NASA's video sequence is astounding to watch, even for scientists, since it shows the animated texture of the planet.

"I was surprised to see so many sharp edges along the hexagon's outer boundary and the eye-wall of the polar vortex," Kunio Sayanagi, an associate of the Cassini imaging team based at Hampton University in Virginia and one of the producers of the movie, said in a press release. "Something must be keeping different latitudes from mixing to maintain those edges."

In the end, even the maneuver to rotate the camera frame was captured near the end of the video. Cassini needed to reorient itself and use the antenna for protection thus the need to point it towards the direction of the spacecraft.

Meanwhile, Cassini is still beaming back data from its long-haul mission to Saturn. Part of the recently delivered images to NASA is that of Saturn's moon Enceladus, where there appear to be massive sprawling legs on its surface.

Interestingly, NASA reported that the Northern and Southern regions of Enceladus tell very different stories. The northern part appears to be as old as the solar system while the southern region shows signs of active geologic activity that produced the "tiger stripes" or what others call sprawling legs on Enceladus.

NASA expects more information on Saturn during the completion of Cassini's Grand Finale mission. Cassini is set to fully end its journey in September this year.

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