Space probe finds vast void between Saturn's rings

Toby Manning
May 7, 2017

On April 26th, NASA's Cassini spacecraft made its first-ever "Grand Finale" dive through the gap between Saturn and the planet's rings.

The 1-minute video above begins with a look at the vortex found at Saturn's north pole. One of Saturn's icy moons, namely Enceladus, has all the necessary elements to sustain life, and is the second cosmic body after our planet to contain them all in one place.

The images, which show Saturn's curved surface, have been projected onto a flat plane here to enable assembly into a continuous movie sequence. The spacecraft needs to complete 22 dives in the "danger zone" to complete its Grand Finale mission. Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have planned a year-long farewell for Cassini which consists of a tour.

"I was surprised to see so many sharp edges along the hexagon's outer boundary and the eye-wall of the polar vortex", said Kunio Sayanagi, an associate of the Cassini imaging team, based at Hampton University in Virginia.

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To be fair, Cassini did some incredible work on its first dive. "We plan to make updates to our observations for a similar opportunity on June 29 that we think will result in even better views".

Cassini's onboard cameras took rapid-fire images during its dive.

This plunge into what once was unexplored space kicked off Cassini's Grand Finale - the end of its 13-year mission to explore the odd, ringed planet and its moons.

But what's most interesting about the newest crop of photos isn't necessarily the images of Saturn and its rings - those are also really, really cool - it's the snapshots that Cassini's lens managed to capture of the planet's moons Rhea and Titan.

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