NASA’s Cassini has been soaring through the cosmos for nearly 20 years and to celebrate the latest phase of its journey, the intrepid spacecraft has sent scientists new images of Saturn’s northern hemisphere.
The purpose of Cassini’s newest mission phase, called Ring-Grazing Orbits, is to skim past the outer edges of the planet’s main rings, according to NASA. The pictures above, which highlights the planet’s hexagon-shaped jet stream, were taken in early December.
“This is it, the beginning of the end of our historic exploration of Saturn,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute. “Let these images—and those to come—remind you that we’d lived a bold and daring adventure around the solar system’s most magnificent planet.”
Cassini will continue its ring-grazing orbits until April 22 of next year, where it will then begin its descent toward the planet’s surface. By September of 2017, Cassini will no longer exist.
The beginning of the end
Cassini launched all the way back in 1997 and has continued to study the Saturn system since arriving in 2004.