Seven things we’ve seen thanks to the Cassini spacecraft

The Cassini probe has been circling around Saturn and its moons for more than 13 years – here are some incredible insights captured.

10th July 2017
Seven things we’ve seen thanks to the Cassini spacecraft © NASA

This is an edited extract from Cassini’s Last Hurrah from issue 310 of BBC Focus magazine - make sure you don’t miss out on the full article every issue and subscribe here.

The Cassini spacecraft will soon be deliberately sent into a trajectory directly into the gas giant Saturn’s atmosphere, where it will burn up and marks the end of its 13-year mission. Here are some of the incredible things it has seen along the way

Titan fall

Titan © NASA

This panoramic picture shows of the landing zone of the European Huygens probe on Titan, as seen from a 10km altitude. Huygens touched down at the base of a mountain range.

Subscribe to BBC Focus

Smoggy satellite

Titan © NASA

This is a photomosaic of Titan, made by Cassini during its flyby on 13 November 2015. The individual photos were shot by the craft’s infrared instruments, which enabled a view through the smog layers in the nitrogen-rich atmosphere.

Chilly moon

Phoebe © NASA

Before entering its orbit around Saturn, Cassini approached the outer Saturnian moon Phoebe to within 12,000km. Phoebe is irregularly shaped and heavily cratered, and measures some 200km across. The moon’s low density indicates that ice is a major constituent.

Glowing geysers

Enceladus © NASA

The geysers of Enceladus show up clearly when backlit by the Sun. They were discovered by Cassini in 2005. They indicate the existence of an ocean beneath the frozen surface of the icy moon.

Mind the gap

Daphne © NASA

The gravity of Saturn’s tiny moon Daphnis, which orbits the planet in the narrow Keeler Gap, produces strange wavelike patterns in the ring system. Daphnis is just 8km across, but continuously sweeps up tiny ring particles.

Shadowy planet

Saturn © NASA

This photomosaic of Saturn shows the unlit side of the ring system. The rings cast their shadow on Saturn’s cloud deck, just north of the planet’s equator.

Subscribe to BBC Focus

Ice rings

Saturn rings © NASA

Cassini took this image of Saturn and its ring system while passing through the planet’s shadow. The outer purple band is Saturn’s very tenuous E-ring, which contains dust particles and ice crystals that originate in the geysers of Enceladus.

Read more:

Follow Science Focus on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and Google+