First look at images from Cassini’s dive between Saturn’s rings
The first dive, which began on 26 April, takes Cassini closer than any spacecraft has been before.
These Grand Finale orbits, each taking only six days, will yield a wealth of new information about Saturn.
While the images are still murky, we can see what are probably shadows from the planet’s rings being cast onto its surface as Cassini rockets through at more than 100, 000 kilometres an hour.
Cassini will, of course, take close-up pictures of Saturn’s rings and clouds, but it will also map the planet’s gravity and magnetic fields, giving scientists a window into Saturn’s interior.
As Cassini swoops between the planet and its rings, it will sample the particles drifting from the rings into the atmosphere and measure how much dust and ice Saturn’s rings really have.
The end of the Grand Finale mission in September will also be the end of the Cassini spacecraft. Low on fuel, it will crash into Saturn in order to protect the planet’s moons from contamination by any Earth microbes that may have hitched a ride for all these years.