Cassini sent the first pictures of Saturn from a new orbit
A hurricane at close range. The photo was taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera on December 3rd of this year. Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute
Probe Cassini embarked on the final part of his mission - photographing the rings of Saturn as they passed through them. From November 30 of this year to April 22 of next year, the device will move from pole to pole of this planet. Every seven days, it now passes through the outer region of the main rings of the gas giant. In total, it is planned to make about 20 such “shuttle” transitions.
The probe is equipped with a large number of scientific instruments that have repeatedly helped scientists to obtain new information about various objects of the solar system. They help now. The other day the probe sent images of the atmosphere of Saturn to Earth, showing the area in the northern hemisphere. The photographs clearly show a hexagonal storm in the atmosphere of the planet, the duration of which is several hundred years .
Photos taken December 2-4, two days before the "diving" in the ring. All subsequent images will show new areas of the planet and its rings in high resolution. A number of photographs will be taken at the closest possible distance in the history of observations.
“This is the beginning of the end of our historical exploration of Saturn. These images and the following will remind us that we live during one of the most remarkable adventures: exploring the amazing planet of the solar system, ”says Carolyn Porco, one of the members of the Cassini team.
The next passage along the outer edge of one of the rings is scheduled for December 11th.
Let me remind you that Cassini makes the first two “dives” through one of the thinnest and weakest rings of Saturn, formed by tiny meteors hitting two moons of the planet - Janus and Epimetheus. In March and April, the probe will study the outer regions of the F ring, which is characterized by a large amount of dust.
“Despite the fact that we are closer to the F ring closer than ever, it is still more than 7800 kilometers. There is virtually no dust hazard, ”said Earl Mayes, Cassini Project Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory .
The first photographs of the hurricane on Saturn, "Cassini" made back in 2004. The velocity of the atmospheric masses here is about 150 m / s. And the "eye" of this storm is more than 50 times the size of the average "eye" of a hurricane on Earth. This object itself is several times larger than the Earth, its diameter is 32,000 km, and its depth is at least 100 km.
These few photos were taken by Cassini on December 2, 2016. "A hurricane and rings are shown here. Each photo was taken using a filter that is sensitive to the wavelength of light. Both clouds and haze are visible at different heights.
During his work," Cassini "Sent to Earth more than 30 thousand photographs of both Saturn itself and its rings and satellites. Thanks to the work of the probe, scientists have received a wealth of information about the gas giant.
Scientists have learned this year that Saturn’s hurricane changes color over time. In about four years of observation, he changed from blue to golden. Why? So far, experts can only speculate. Most likely, the reason is seasonal changes. The year on Saturn lasts 29 earth years. Seasons change once every seven years. And now the gas giant receives the maximum of sunshine, because before that there was a “winter” on Saturn.
“The color change is probably only a consequence of the changing seasons on Saturn. In particular, the transition of color from bluish to golden may be due to the passage of photochemical reactions in the atmosphere, ”the NASA statement said . Interestingly, in 2017 it will be possible to observe the Saturnian solstice.
Another photo, below, was received on December 4th of this year. In this picture you can see Tethys, the fifth largest moon of Saturn with a very uneven surface. The largest Tethys crater is about 400 km in diameter.
Unfortunately, already in September of this year, Cassini will begin to carry out the final stage of the mission - immersion in the dense atmosphere of Saturn. In early September, the probe will pass approximately 1600 kilometers from the upper boundary of the clouds. After that, he will sink into the bowels of the atmosphere, which will happen on September 15. Scientists hope that the final will be useful for science - the device will be able to transmit a large amount of valuable scientific information about the composition of the atmosphere of the gas giant.