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Saturn, the beginning and the end

From Cassini's archive, new pictures and data

These two images illustrate just how far Cassini traveled to get to Saturn. On the left is one of the earliest images Cassini took of the ringed planet, captured during the long voyage from the inner solar system. On the right is one of Cassini's final images of Saturn, showing the site where the spacecraft would enter the atmosphere on the following day.


In the left image, taken in 2001, about six months after the spacecraft passed Jupiter for a gravity assist flyby, the best view of Saturn using the spacecraft’s high-resolution (narrow-angle) camera was on the order of what could be seen using the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. At the end of the mission (at right), from close to Saturn, even the lower resolution (wide-angle) camera could capture just a tiny part of the planet.



The left image looks toward Saturn from 20 degrees below the ring plane and was taken on July 13, 2001 in wavelengths of infrared light centered at 727 nanometers using the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera. The view at right is centered on a point 6 degrees north of the equator and was taken in visible light using the wide-angle camera on Sept. 14, 2017.


The view on the left was acquired at a distance of approximately 510 million kilometers from Saturn. Image scale is about 3,100 kilometers per pixel. The view at right was acquired at a distance of approximately 360,000 miles 579,000 kilometers from Saturn. Image scale is 35 kilometers per pixel.


The Cassini spacecraft ended its mission on Sept. 15, 2017. The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of  NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). 

ASI is one of the partners of the Cassini mission: on the basis of a cooperation agreement with NASA it has developed for Cassini the high gain antenna with the incorporation of a low-gain antenna (that ensure telecommunications with the Earth for the entire duration of the mission), the VIMS spectrometer, the radio-science subsystem (RSIS) and the radar which also uses the high-gain antenna. 

ASI has also developed for the Huygens spacecraft the HASI instrument which measured the physical properties of the atmosphere and Titan's surface.