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Monday, 08 May 2017 12:58

Cassini captures breathtaking new pictures of Saturn and its rings in second daring 'death dive'

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The latest images from the Cassini probe orbiting Saturn have been sent back to Earth.

The probe has successfully completed the second of 22 planned 'death dives' through the rings of the gigantic gas planet. NASA is threading the distant spacecraft through the rings as it comes to the end of its life in an effort to understand more about the planet.

These latest pictures were received by the space agency on May 3, and show the dust and debris that make up the rings. 

Cassini was originally launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. Since then it has been exploring not just the planet, but also its moons: Enceladus and Titan.

It is responsible for the discovery of deep oceans underneath the surface ice of Enceladus. Scientists believe this could be one of the best places in the solar system for potentially discovering alien life.

Cassini has twenty more dives to make through the rings of Saturn, before it plunges into the planet's atmosphere.

"No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we’ll attempt to boldly cross 22 times,’ said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA explains the ending of Cassini on its website: "The spacecraft will repeatedly climb high above Saturn’s poles, flying just outside its narrow F ring 20 times. After a last targeted Titan flyby, the spacecraft will then dive between Saturn’s uppermost atmosphere and its innermost ring 22 times.

"As Cassini plunges past Saturn, the spacecraft will collect rich and valuable information far beyond the mission’s original plan, including measuring Saturn’s gravitational and magnetic fields, determining ring mass, sampling the atmosphere and ionosphere, and making the last views of Enceladus."

Source: This article was published on mirror.co.uk BY

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