Cassini spacecraft preparing for its planned death plunge into Saturn

Cassini spacecraft preparing for its planned death plunge into Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will soon stop transmitting information back to Earth as it is preparing to embark on its final mission -- a death plunge through the gap that separates Saturn’s rings from the planet.

Launched by the American space agency in 1997, Cassini maneuvered through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, before entering the Saturn system in 2004. It provided a lot of vital information on Titan – Saturn’s biggest moon.

It helped scientists discover that out of 173 known moons orbiting planets in our solar system, only Titan has an atmosphere. Scientist also came to learn that Titan has liquid methane lakes and seas filled hydrocarbon liquid, as well as a giant internal ocean. Many believe that Titan, which is half the size of Earth, could harbor life or that it might be a possible future home for humans.

However, the mission is nearing its end as it will make its planned death plunge through the gap between Saturn’s rings and the planet in early September.

Jonathan Lunine, the director of Cornell University’s Center for Astrophysics & Planetary Science, said, “Cassini will be directed in its last six months into a series of orbits that go very close to Saturn’s atmosphere. The spacecraft’s orbit will be deflected by a final flyby of Titan. Then, it actually enters Saturn’s atmosphere and burns up.”

Meanwhile, NASA astronomers have announced that Saturn can be seen with a naked eye Early Tuesday morning, roughly 45 minutes before sunrise, in southeast sky. Saturn has been hidden from the view since mid-November, when it moved lower in the southwest sky before ultimately disappearing into the glare of the sun.


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