News from Aug 15, 2017
The final phase of the successful space mission Cassini-Huygens began in April 2017. Highlights of this last mission phase are the spectacular flights of the spacecraft through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings. To date Cassini completed 18 out of 22 flight maneuvers successfully. In the last month of these orbits the dives become more and more risky. To collect as much data as possible, Cassini is going to approach Saturn's cloud surface even closer.
At each dive, the instruments on board Cassini-Huygens transmit numerous data to the complex structure of the ring system, to the atmosphere of the gas giant, and to the weather and wind conditions on the planet. During the 13th dive Cassini gazes toward the rings beyond Saturn's sunlit horizon (image 1). In front of the ring system in the background a thin layer of haze can be recognized on top of the cloud cover. Image 2 shows clouds on Saturn that take on the appearance of strokes from a cosmic brush thanks to the wavy way that fluids interact in Saturn's atmosphere.
The end of the mission is planned for 15 September 2017. After a final flyby at Saturn's largest moon Titan, Cassini is going for a controlled crash with the ring-planet. Even during this nosedive the spacecraft will still collect data and send it to Earth. Cassini's last signal is expected to reach Earth in the afternoon of 15 September 2017.