After 13 years getting intimately acquainted with Saturn and the system around it, NASA‘s Cassini probe is on it’s final approach. At around 7:55am EDT (4:55am PDT) on Friday, September 15th, Cassini will turn away from Earth, lose contact, and plunge (at 70,000 miles an hour) into Saturn’s atmosphere, never to be seen again.
This final dance has been planned for a long time. The reason that Cassini will take it’s final plunge into Saturn, destroying itself inside the subject of it’s wrapt attention, is to protect the system around it. If Cassini ran out of juice and was left to float out into Saturn’s system, scientists fear that it could interfere with Saturn’s moons. This is particularly true of Enceladus, which Cassini discovered has a subsurface liquid ocean and hydrothermal vents. It’s important that those celestial bodies remain ‘pristine’ for future exploration. There’s potential for life there.
So, Cassini is going bye-bye. How do you watch this historic event unfold? Let me count the ways. You can watch “live mission commentary and video from JPL Mission Control will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website from 7 to 8:30 a.m. EDT (4 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. PDT) on Sept. 15. A post-mission news briefing from JPL is currently scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EDT (6:30 a.m. PDT), also on NASA TV.” – NASA.gov
Before losing contact about 930 miles above Saturn’s cloud tops, Cassini is set to take it’s last images of the planet on Thursday night, September 14th, and unload any remaining data. NASA will then upload the RAW IMAGES HERE for public viewing around 11pm EDT (8pm PDT).
NASA has also released a Cassini Tool Kit with all of the info you might be curious to know.
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