Recently, NASA has released a spectacular final mosaic image of Saturn, clicked by the Cassini mission just two days before its last dive into the Saturn’s atmosphere, where the spacecraft become a shooting star in the skies of the planet that it had studied for 13 years. The team has released a mosaic captured by the wide-angle camera on the spacecraft.
Cassini’s camera acquired 42 red, blue and green images, covering the planet and its main rings from one end to the other, on 13 September 2017. Imaging scientists stitched these frames together to make a live colour view. The scene also includes all the moons of Saturn – Prometheus, Pandora, Janus, Epimetheus, Mimas and Enceladus.
Cassini has broadcast back so many images and observations, that the science and image processing are sufficient to keep astronomers busy for at least another sixty years. The Cassini team had been planning on constructing this final view of the planet for years. The images processed into the mosaic were amidst the last set of images captured by the gas giant till other spacecraft goes on a mission to Saturn. For those in the Cassini team who also worked on the Voyager 1 mission, the experience of compiling the image was similar to that of obtaining the final image of Saturn captured by the Voyager 1 Spacecraft.
Robert West, Cassini’s deputy imaging team leader at NASA’s, stated that Cassini’s scientific bounty has been genuinely magnificent, a vast array of new results leading to new insights and surprises, from the smallest of ring particles to the opening of unique landscapes on Titan and Enceladus, to the deep interior of Saturn itself.
The ice-covered moon Enceladus is the home to a global subsurface ocean that erupts into space and also can be seen at the 1 o’clock position. Directly below Enceladus, just outside the thin, farthest ring from the planet seen in this image resides the small moon Epimetheus. Following the F-ring clockwise from Epimetheus, the moon seen is Janus. At about the 4:30 position and outward from the F ring is Mimas another moon. Ingoing of Mimas and still at about the 4:30 area is the F-ring-disrupting moon, Pandora. Moving around to the 10 o’clock position, just inside of the F ring, is the moon Prometheus.
Cassini spacecraft launched in 1997, orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. This mission made various dramatic discoveries, including the unusual geologic action on Saturn’s moon Enceladus and liquid methane seas on a gigantic moon of Saturn, Titan.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 15 degrees above the ring plane. Cassini was around 1.1 million kilometres from Saturn, on its last approach to the planet, when the pictures in this mosaic were taken. Image scale on Saturn is about 67 kilometres per pixel. The image scale on the moons differs from 59 to 80 kilometres pixel. The Sun-planet-spacecraft angle is 138 degrees.
This Cassini spacecraft mission ended on September 15, 2017.