Cassini Spacecraft Crashes into Saturn This Morning — Watch it live! Or Re-runs!


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❝ Friday, Sept. 15, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will wrap up 20 historic years in space, collecting data as it crashes into Saturn’s atmosphere and burns up like a meteor…Today’s stories on Cassini’s demise…

NASA will air a series of webcasts leading up Cassini’s final suicide plunge, which you will be able to watch here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV…

❝ Friday, Sept. 15

❝ 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. EDT (1100 to 1230 GMT): Live commentary about end-of-mission activities. An uninterrupted camera feed from JPL Mission Control, with mission audio only, will also be available during the commentary…

❝ About 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT): Cassini’s last science data, and final signal, should come down to Earth.

❝ 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT): Post-mission news conference from JPL…

❝ The $3.2 billion Cassini-Huygens mission — a joint effort of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — launched in October 1997 and arrived in the Saturn system on June 30, 2004 (PDT)…

But nothing lasts forever. Cassini is nearly out of fuel; if it runs out completely, the probe’s handlers won’t be able to control it anymore. So they want to dispose of Cassini before things get to that point, which is why they’re sending the spacecraft on a death dive into Saturn on Sept. 15…

RTFA and wend your way through recent history of this space adventure. Hours of nothing but interesting articles, photos and video from serious science – as enjoyable as anything your intellect ever encounters.

Photos of a hurricane on Saturn from the Cassini Spacecraft

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has survived an unprecedented trip between Saturn and its rings, and has amazing pictures to show for it.

Flight controllers regained contact with Cassini on Thursday, a day after it became the first craft to cross this hazardous region. The rings are made up of countless icy particles, any of which could have smacked Cassini. The spacecraft’s big dish antenna served as a shield as it hurtled through the narrow gap, temporarily cutting off communications….

Twenty-one more crossings are planned — about one a week — before Cassini’s fatal plunge in mid-September. The next one is Tuesday (2nd May). Some of those passages will bring Cassini even closer to the planet as well as the innermost D ring. The gap between the rings and the top of Saturn’s atmosphere is between 1,200 and 1,500 miles across (1,900 to 2,400 kilometers).

Watch for it. Stay in touch with NASA.

Ringside with Titan and Dione

Orbiting in the plane of Saturn’s rings, Saturnian moons have a perpetual ringside view of the gorgeous gas giant planet. Of course, while passing near the ring plane the Cassini spacecraft also shares their stunning perspective. The rings themselves can be seen slicing across the middle of this Cassini snapshot from May of last year. The scene features Titan, largest, and Dione, third largest moon of Saturn. Remarkably thin, the bright rings still cast arcing shadows across the planet’s cloud tops at the bottom of the frame. Pale Dione is about 1,100 kilometers across and orbits over 300,000 kilometers from the visible outer edge of the A ring. Dione is seen through Titan’s atmospheric haze. At 5,150 kilometers across, Titan is about 2.3 million kilometers from Cassini, while Dione is 3.2 million kilometers away.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

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Saturn’s jet stream hexagon emerges from darkness

After waiting years for the sun to illuminate Saturn’s north pole again, cameras aboard NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have captured the most detailed images yet of the intriguing hexagon shape crowning the planet.

The new images of the hexagon, whose shape is the path of a jet stream flowing around the north pole, reveal concentric circles, curlicues, walls and streamers not seen in previous images.

The last visible-light images of the entire hexagon were captured by NASA’s Voyager spacecraft nearly 30 years ago, the last time spring began on Saturn. After the sunlight faded, darkness shrouded the north pole for 15 years. Much to the delight and bafflement of Cassini scientists, the location and shape of the hexagon in the latest images match up with what they saw in the Voyager pictures.

The longevity of the hexagon makes this something special, given that weather on Earth lasts on the order of weeks,” said Kunio Sayanagi, a Cassini imaging team associate at the California Institute of Technology. “It’s a mystery on par with the strange weather conditions that give rise to the long-lived Great Red Spot of Jupiter…”

“Now that we can see undulations and circular features instead of blobs in the hexagon, we can start trying to solve some of the unanswered questions about one of the most bizarre things we’ve ever seen in the solar system,” Baines said. “Solving these unanswered questions about the hexagon will help us answer basic questions about weather that we’re still asking about our own planet.”

Questions, of course, that will be answered by scientists committed to knowledge, research – rather than paid Exxon flacks and their acolytes.