NASA has released breathtaking images taken by its Cassini craft, which has been orbiting the ringed planet Saturn, and the mission has entered the last year of its life. The image was taken from a distance of 1.4 million kilometers and clearly shows the smallest moon of the planet, “Pan.”
Saturn has some moons of varying sizes and shapes. “Pan” is its smallest moon and is doughnut shaped and is present in the Encke Gap in Saturn’s A Ring. The presence of the moon keeps the path it takes free from dust particles.
The image was snapped on July 2, 2016, by the narrow-angle camera in the visible light spectrum. The picture was taken towards the sunlit side of the rings at an angle of 8 degrees above the ring plane. NASA revealed that the image had been brightened by a factor of two and the scale is 8 kilometers per pixel.
The latest pictures have been released exactly one year before the Cassini-Huygens enters Saturn’s atmosphere, destroying itself instantly. NASA also programmed the craft to stare at Saturn for a full four days to prepare a 44-hour movie.
Cassini is in its final stages of its suicidal journey when it will plunge into the ringed planet. The fiery end of the craft has been planned by NASA to prevent any contamination on the moons of the ringed body which could harbor life or could in the coming times. Cassini has been programmed to conduct a series of dives between the planets and the rings and will start its final plunge into the planet some six months later bringing finis to one of the most successful missions by NASA.
The craft was launched in 1997 and after a seven-year journey arrived at Saturn in 2004. The mission accomplished many firsts in Space Research-
- First landing on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005
- Unearthed a subsurface ocean on Enceladus
- Gave a detailed view of the rings of Saturn
- From November 30 will study the main rings of Saturn known as the F Rings.