WHAT WERE THE LAST THINGS CASSINI SAW ON SATURN?
A year after Cassini ended its 20-year mission to study Saturn, the last data the spacecraft recorded before plunging into the planet’s atmosphere are revealing its long-held secrets.
Cassini’s sensors were recording until the last second during its “death dive,” and all of the data were transmitted to NASA scientists on Earth before the spacecraft disintegrated.
Over the past year, scientists have been analyzing the data.
Saturn’s magnetic field has long remained elusive, but Cassini’s instruments allowed scientists to measure the planet’s internal and external fields. However, they are no closer to understanding how it formed.
Their detections revealed a radiation belt, acting like an electric current, trapped between Saturn and its rings. This suggests that there is a lot of structure within the dust environment around Saturn. And when Cassini flew through the magnetosphere, they were able to pick up on the radio emissions the planet gives off. Understanding the radio emissions could help in the search for exoplanets, the researchers said.
The rest of the results, published Thursday in the journal Science, include an unprecedented look at the planet’s upper atmosphere and its rings.
Cassini’s up-close encounter with Saturn has shed light on “a new element of how our solar system works,” said Thomas Cravens, co-author of one of the studies and a University of Kansas professor of physics and astronomy.
In this video I’ll tell you about Cassini.
What did it see on its historic mission to Saturn in 1997-2017?
And what was the last image it beamed back? Make yourselves comfortable
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