Latest Cassini image captures majesty of Saturn's rings
Before burning up in Saturn's atmosphere last month, NASA's Cassini spacecraft managed to capture some compelling closeups of the gas giant and its rings. The latest offers another spectacular perspective on Saturn and its surrounding beautiful rings.
The latest Cassini image released by NASA was snapped by the unmanned probe's wide-angle camera on August 12, around one month before it was destroyed in a fiery plunge toward the surface. It peers across toward the sun-facing side of Saturn, at a distance of around 581,000 miles (935,000 km) to the cloud tops, with an image scale of 35 miles (56 km) to each pixel.
The image shows Saturn's major and fainter rings, including the innermost D ring and the 1,500 -mile (2,400 km) gap between it and the planet's uppermost cloud layers. It was through this gap that Cassini made a succession of daring dives earlier in the year, gathering invaluable information on the composition of the gas giant's rings.
If you squint really hard, you can also make out Pandora, one of the 52 confirmed moons to orbit Saturn. Seen as a very faint dot just beyond the outermost ring in the top right corner of the photo, the moon sat around 691,000 miles (1.1 million km) away from Cassini when the image was captured. Cassini officially ended its mission on September 15, but the images and data gathered by the probe will keep scientists busy for decades to come.