NASA Releases Video Of Cassini's First Dive Over Saturn
On April 26, NASA's Cassini spacecraft made its first dive — in a series of dives — between Saturn and its rings. This part of the Cassini's mission also known as the "Grand Finale" comprises 21 such dives to gather more information on the planet, as well as the dust ring for which it is famous.
People had to take NASA's word on the success of Cassini's first-ever dive, but the space agency has uploaded a video, which showcases the pictures the spacecraft clicked during the dive.
Cassini Dive Video And What It Shows
The video reveals a series of images from various stages of Cassini's first dive between the planet and its rings. Although, the pictures are hazy, small, and grainy they represent the closest photographic evidence of Saturn's cloud tops in humankind's history.
"This is a mode in which the camera cuts down the image size by half in order to take images faster. It's a trade off you make in order to capture something very close moving very quickly beneath you," Preston Dyches, a spokesperson for NASA JPL, explained.
The video explains how the pictures were clicked. It also shows a small animated image indicating where Cassini's camera was housed during the first hour of its maiden dive.
The last portion of the clip shows Cassini's antenna pointing down to protect the instruments from the dust particles, which scientists believed would be present in the region. However, as discovered later, the region was relatively dust-free, which puzzled scientists.
The NASA video cuts off before Cassini plunges through the void as it would have been impossible for it to capture any images as the spacecraft sped up to 6,800 mph.
What Next For Cassini?
Cassini, which was launched back in 1997, is in its final leg. It reached Saturn in 2004 and since then has been studying the planet's satellites to determine whether one of the moons presents a conducive environment needed to support life.
However, the spacecraft has nearly run out of fuel which is needed to operate it. As part of the final project, NASA decided to use the remaining fuel to conduct a series of dives to study the composition of Saturn's dust rings.
After its 21st dive, Cassini will perform its final dive and burn up in Saturn's gaseous clouds on September 15. This self-destruction procedure will be undertaken to prevent the craft from accidentally crashing into Enceladus or Titan, two of Saturn's moons believed to contain underground oceans.
Cassini already performed its second dive through Saturn's rings on Tuesday, May 2. NASA is currently processing the images collected from the second dive.
Check out the video of the images collected from the first-ever dive.
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