Suicide mis­sion re­veals age of rings

Science Illustrated - - SPACE/ SOLAR SYSTEM -

The Cassini probe makes the head­lines through­out the world on 15 Septem­ber 2017, when the probe ends its 13 year mis­sion around Saturn and its largest moons.

Over the years, the Cassini probe has en­sured a se­ries of mag­nif­i­cent record­ings in­clud­ing up to 500-km-high gey­sers on the Ence­ladus ice moon, se­vere storms in Saturn’s at­mos­phere, and surging meth­ane oceans on Ti­tan. Cassini brings the Huy­gens lan­der, which in 2005 lands on Ti­tan as the first – and so far only – craft to land on a world in the outer So­lar Sys­tem.

In a grand fi­nale, Cassini in April 2017 dives un­der Saturn’s in­ner­most rings. Over the next five months, the probe makes 22 haz­ardous moves in be­tween the planet and the rings, be­fore fi­nally div­ing into the at­mos­phere, burn­ing up like a me­teor. The sci­en­tific aim of the sched­uled suicide is to fi­nally find the an­swers that will solve decades of dis­putes con­cern­ing the age of Saturn’s rings. Sci­en­tists are cur­rently analysing all the data that Cassini has sent back dur­ing its grand fi­nale.

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