The Cassini space probe was launched in 1997, and after a long trip, it entered orbit around Saturn in 2004. Since then, Cassini has been sending valuable data and photos of the Saturn.
The newest image, taken on December 18th, is one of the highest-resolution views ever taken of Saturn's moon Pandora. The spacecraft captured the image during its closest-ever flyby of Pandora, during the third of its grazing passes by the outer edges of Saturn's main rings.
The image was taken at a distance of approximately 25,200 miles (40,500 kilometers) from Pandora.
Craters formed on this object by impacts appear to be covered by debris, a process that probably happens rapidly in a geologic sense. The grooves and small ridges on Pandora (84 kilometers, or 52 miles across) suggest that fractures affect the overlying smooth material.
Cassini's final phase called the Grand Finale begins in April 2017. A close flyby of Saturn's giant moon Titan will reshape the spacecraft's orbit so that it passes through the gap between Saturn and rings - an unexplored space only about 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) wide. During the Grand Finale, Cassini will make the closest-ever observation of the Saturn, and scientists hope to gain new insights into Saturn's interior structure.
The Grand Finale will come to an end on September 15, 2017, as Cassini dives into Saturn's atmosphere, returning data about the planet's chemical composition until its signal is lost. Friction with the atmosphere will cause the spacecraft to burn up like a meteor soon afterward.
Last updated: Apr 6, 2020 at 04:47 pm CDT
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