NASA shows us where Cassini entered Saturn in its Grand Finale: we review l.

One of the most recent (and somewhat melancholic) farewells that we have experienced in recent months is that of the Cassini space probe. This mission has shown us Saturn with a level of detail never reached, and speaking of concrete information now NASA has revealed the exact point where Cassini disintegrated.

Taking advantage of this data, and a weekend that at times will be monopolized by the news of MWC 2018 (one day after its official opening), we give a review with the most important figures and data that left us and continues to leave the information that the probe collected during its life. Of course, also from the images that you have been giving us, which continue to be reviewed and provide valuable information for astronomers.

NASA shows us where Cassini entered Saturn in its Grand Finale: we review l

The place of the facts

Cassini worked until the last moment, and NASA has used one of its latest images to indicate the point of the end of it (the so-called Grand Finale). Thus, the image with which the probe anticipated its own farewell we see the point in Saturn’s atmosphere where the probe entered until it disintegrated.

Specifically, it is a photograph taken by Cassini’s wide-angle camera and spectral filters for blue, red and green. on September 14, 2017, a day before saying goodbye forever, and seeing the area in which its irremediable decline would take place some 634,000 kilometers from the planet, the space agency tells us.

NASA shows us where Cassini entered Saturn in its Grand Finale: we review l

2004, the year that yes

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, June 30, 9:12 a.m. PDT. A group of NASA professionals hold their breath as they wait for one of the crucial phases The Cassini mission went well without any major unforeseen event: the arrival of Saturn in orbit.

Cassini was the first human-made object to orbit Saturn

NASA shows us where Cassini entered Saturn in its Grand Finale: we review l

And fortunately and indeed it was; Cassini completed this point without problems, reaching Saturn after seven years of travel and becoming the first human-made object to orbit the planet. We see it all in this summary video that NASA shared as a reminder of the milestone.

13 years of service

Cassini was able to leave at ease after have worked for thirteen out of twenty years that it had been in 2017 since its launch. Thirteen years of exploration and seven years of travel that began on October 15, 1997 in Cape Canaveral (Florida, United States), ending on September 15, 2017 at that point that we have just seen.

NASA shows us where Cassini entered Saturn in its Grand Finale: we review l

2008, the year that (thankfully) didn’t pass

The plan, however, was not that. As we already told last year collecting some of the most important data of the mission, after a few years of activity the mission was expanded (and many more since it was forged in the 80s) it was decided to extend its duration.

NASA told it in detail precisely in 2008, when it was approved to extend the mission for two more years (at that time) thus adding 60 more orbits to Saturn, 26 flights to Titan, seven to Enceladus and one to Rhea, Helena and Dione, thus more studies of the rings, the magnetosphere and the planet itself. As we have seen over time, the mission would not only be active until 2010, but until 2017.

Bread is a snack

Sometimes we are surprised by seeing things up close. It is not that appearances were deceiving with Pan, one of Saturn’s satellites, it is that when Cassini approached it it showed us that it is shaped like … Sandwich? Nut? Ravioli?

NASA shows us where Cassini entered Saturn in its Grand Finale: we review l

We talked about the “debate” in March 2017, when we received the unique images of this Saturnian moon whose morphology is far from that more or less regular sphere that we assume for many of the planets and satellites. Even Carolyn Porco, chief imaging officer for the Cassini project. She tweeted surprised about the appearance of Pan, by whose name we had no choice but to stay with the idea that it is shaped like a sandwich (let us joke one more time).

Twenty times furrowing the never furrowed

Cassini was born to leave a name, to surprise, to jump from milestone to milestone. Reaching Saturn was not enough; other vehicles were going to go further, and with respect to Neptune, Pluto or beyond the gas giant almost, it was almost “meh” as a further destination (we are in a humorous tone here, of course). So the challenge was none other than to be the first human-made object to cross the gap between Saturn and its rings, an area never before explored.

We can also relive the moment thanks to the fact that NASA cameras keep a hole for their human ants. The probe flew at a speed of 124,000 kilometers / hour in a space approximately 2,000 kilometers wide. And not enough with this, the plan was to repeat it up to 21 times, although finally “we had to settle” with twenty. There is only video of the first one, but it would not be surprising if the intensity of the celebration was the same twenty times.

NASA shows us where Cassini entered Saturn in its Grand Finale: we review l

Cassini showed us what Saturn’s rings really look like, from very, very close

Probably, when drawing the silhouette of Saturn freehand, we will do it by drawing a line to illustrate the Rings (viewed cross-sectionally). This is what thousands of images tell us in which the planet seems to be traversed by a blade and split into two halves, said blade being the rings, although yes: images at a certain distance.

The hue also reminded us of Cassini and here we echoed the “truth” about the rings; not that its rather irregular nature was not known, but the probe showed us that they are thin rings in proportion to Saturn, and that if Saturn were a basketball the rings would be as thick as human hair.

Saturn’s rings are not thick and they are not perfect, smooth, flat. They are wavy.

They are not thick and they are not perfect, smooth, flat. They are wavy and Cassini showed us, ripples due to a kind of gravitational tug of war between Saturn itself and its moons. Although we have already seen that they are not actually waves, but spirals, called spiral density waves, or what is the same, what we see in this photograph.

NASA shows us where Cassini entered Saturn in its Grand Finale: we review l

The 10th anniversary figures in orbit

Perhaps we are used to speaking in thousands and millions of years when it comes to space, but a decade is not little or much less. They reminded us in Microsiervos on the occasion of Cassini’s ten years orbiting Saturn.

Figures such as the following:

  • 3.6 billion kilometers around the planet.
  • 206 orbits.
  • 332,000 photos.
  • 514 GB of information of high value for the scientific community.
  • So high that it gave 3,039 articles.

The possibilities of life on the moons of Saturn

Proving that a theory is true or not is part of the scientific method, and Cassini had quite a few responsibilities in this regard. On Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, it was hypothesized that hid a great ocean under its ice sheet, and Cassini, neither short nor lazy, went and “confirmed” that this was so (the quotes are because it is an idea based on the models created from the information of the probe and the calculations based on the strange vibration detected in Enceladus).

NASA shows us where Cassini entered Saturn in its Grand Finale: we review l

Two years later the news was still favorable to these theories, and also to those that point to Encedalo as a possible habitat for life. Cassini detected hydrothermal activity, that is, heat and organic substances in addition to that hidden ocean, postponing his candidacy for a possible home for life as we know it.

But of the 60 moons that are known to Saturn, not only Encedalo was going to be left with the exclusive of being a potential home of life. It is known that the atmosphere of Titan it contains methane, ethane, nitrogen, argon, and ammonium ion, and finding the former is one of the factors that fuels the consideration that the satellite harbors (or harbors) life.

Eleven years (2015) and 341,805 photographs in a video

If before we spoke of the tenth anniversary, now we speak of eleven years of mission and 341,805 RAW photos accumulated after so long, specifically since February 6, 2004. All this was compiled in a large file called * Saturn EDR Data Sets “, consisting of 93 volumes.

How long does it take to review (and enjoy) these photos? Jon Keegan of The Wall Street Journal made it easy for us by publishing a video of 3 hours and 48 minutes composed of images and videos of Saturn, from February 6, 2004 to September 15, 2015.

Saturn sees us (a little bit)

We have already seen what dose of images Cassini sent us, and among all of them there was one that fell a little more but not precisely because it was of Saturn or its rings and moons, but because of self-centeredness. Because we left, although it gives us an idea of ​​how tiny our presence in the universe is.

Did you know that the Earth is visible from Saturn? Nothing about Blue Planet, it is practically nothing, but the fact is that in the photograph you can see a white point that corresponds to our planet between rings A and F, taken on April 12, 2017 when the probe was about 1,400 million kilometers from Earth.