Watch: Take a trip with Cassini through Saturn’s inner rings

4 May 2017

Saturn. Image: janez volmajer/Shutterstock

The incredible NASA mission to discover as much as possible about Saturn has produced a video of the latest trip.

Cassini’s mission is in its most entertaining phase, diving beneath Saturn’s innermost rings and revealing everything the giant planet has to offer.

Called the Grand Finale, this is Cassini’s swansong, following years of orbiting Saturn.

A joint mission of NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency, Cassini has been circling the planet for 13 years now, with 22 dives beneath its rings scheduled until September’s planned crash onto Saturn’s surface.

The first of those dives was on 26 April, with NASA now revealing a new movie sequence of images from that daring adventure.

With an hour of observations contained within the movie, Cassini can be seen flying southward over the planet. It begins with a view of the swirling vortex at Saturn’s north pole, then heads past the outer boundary of the hexagon-shaped jet stream and beyond.

“I was surprised to see so many sharp edges along the hexagon’s outer boundary and the eye-wall of the polar vortex,” said Kunio Sayanagi, an associate of the Cassini imaging team. “Something must be keeping different latitudes from mixing to maintain those edges.”

Cassini’s altitude above the clouds of Saturn dropped from 72,400km to 6,700km during the recording, with the distance covered in each pixel as low as 810 meters in some instances.

Still, there is more to come.

“The images from the first pass were great, but we were conservative with the camera settings,” said Andrew Ingersoll, another member of the Cassini imaging team.

“We plan to make updates to our observations for a similar opportunity on 28 June that we think will result in even better views.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic