News from Jul 03, 2017
April 22, 2017 marked the beginning of the final phase of the successful space mission Cassini-Huygens, termed Cassini Grand Finale. The new orbit led the spacecraft into a by then completely unexplored region. For the first time, the narrow zone between Saturn and its ring system has been crossed, but not only once: Cassini successfully completed 11 out of 22 planned maneuvers on 30 June.
These spectacular dives through the nearly 2400 km wide gap between the planet and the innermost of Saturn's rings (the so-called D-ring) are risky. But from the data that is collected during these dives scientists hope to extract fundamental about the origin and development of gas planets, and the complex structure of the ring system.
The end of the mission is scheduled for 15 September 2017. After a nearly 20-years-long journey through space, Cassini is going for a controlled crash with the ring-planet. Hopefully, it will collect data and send it to Earth until the very end.
Saturn's rings were named alphabetically in the order of discovery. The faint D-ring is the innermost ring; the narrow F-ring marks the outer boundary of the main ring system.