The US space agency NASA has shared a stunning image of Saturn along with its beautiful rings captured by the Cassini spacecraft during its 20 year long life span. The farewell image of the most beautiful planet of our solar system is part of a series of images that has been assembled into a new mosaic.
The incredible images were captured using the camera aboard the Cassini spacecraft on Sept 13, 2017. Scientists revealed that they have stitched 42 red, green and blue images, covering the planet and its main rings from one end to the other to make one beautiful image where one can admire the beauty of the planet in a single frame. Moreover, the photo also includes few moons of Saturn including Prometheus, Pandora, Janus, Epimetheus, Mimas and Enceladus.
There is much to remember and celebrate in marking the end of the mission. Cassini’s exploration of Saturn and its environs was deep, comprehensive and historic.
“Cassini’s scientific bounty has been truly spectacular — a vast array of new results leading to new insights and surprises, from the tiniest of ring particles to the opening of new landscapes on Titan and Enceladus, to the deep interior of Saturn itself,” said Robert West, Cassini’s deputy imaging team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Scientists in the Cassini imaging team had planned the farewell for so long and one cannot expect a better farewell than the stunning image released by the imaging team. However, scientists admitted it was really hard for them to say goodbye to Cassini after devoting twenty years of life to the probe. Some scientists cried like babies after the spacecraft crashed itself on the planet as they treated it like their own family member and now they were finding it difficult to accept the fact that Cassini is no more between them.
“It was all too easy to get used to receiving new images from the Saturn system on a daily basis, seeing new sights, watching things change,” said Elizabeth Turtle, an imaging team associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland. “It was hard to say goodbye, but how lucky we were to be able to see it all through Cassini’s eyes!”
For others, Cassini’s farewell to Saturn is reminiscent of another parting from long ago.
Cassini launched on October 15, 1997, through collaboration between NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana. On June 30, 2004, the spacecraft successfully entered the orbit of Saturn carrying the Huygens probe. Cassini was officially assigned a four years prime mission, but it was extended twice and resulted in an astonishing 20 year’s long mission highlighting the enormous capacity of the spacecraft.
According to Harold C. Connolly Jr., chairperson of the department of geology at Rowan University in New Jersey, “Cassini’s entire mission was incredibly dramatic and noteworthy. Throughout the mission, the iconic spacecraft has provided us multitude of information and data about the planet, which eventually helped us in getting a better understanding of Solar system’s second largest planet.”
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the U.S., England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team leader are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.