As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft heads toward its doom, it’s still capturing spectacular views of Saturn’s rings. The most recent picture shared by the intrepid explorer is arguably its best yet.
Between the icy rings of Saturn, Earth is a speck of light that refuses to burn out. That tiny dot is all of us—you, me, friends, family—from nearly a billion miles away. While Earth is far too small in the picture to distinguish defining features, NASA scientists say the part of Earth facing Cassini was the southern Atlantic Ocean.
(I’m not crying. You’re crying.)
In a cropped version of the same photo, you can also make out the moon, which looks like nothing more than a fleck of dust on Cassini’s camera lens. It’s absolutely incredible to think that a) space is so vast, and b) we’re able to send information from a spacecraft that hundreds of millions of miles away back to Earth.
This will be one of the last images Cassini sends back to Earth. NASA announced a few weeks ago that the spacecraft will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere later this year after orbiting the planet since 2004.
NASA’s Cassini probe, currently scoping out Saturn, is officially ten years-old today. When it launched back in 2004, the spacecraft was originally approved for a four-year mission, but after several mission extensions, the probe is still going strong. Over the ten-year period, Cassini has made several worthwhile observations and discoveries, giving researchers a better understanding of how planetary systems form and what conditions are necessary for life.
The above photo isn’t a world imploding in the Star Trek universe, but an actual hurricane currently ravaging Saturn’s north pole. It looks breathtakingly surreal, beautiful, something imagined you’d expect in a scene from the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It’s absolutely real, though, and the storm’s eye is an incredible 1,250 miles […]
Google an image of Saturn and your attention will immediately turn to the planet’s rings—the famous halo of space debris that consists of nine continuous main rings and three discontinuous arcs. Look deeper, and you’ll notice something unusual: pictures of the planet never feature any stars. What gives? A new explanation from NASA reveals the […]