Farewell image of Saturn stitched together from final Cassini orbit
On September 15th, NASA's Cassini spacecraft ended its hall of fame mission to Saturn with a dramatic plunge into the gas giant's atmosphere. NASA has now released a mosaic of Saturn and its rings created from images snapped by the beloved explorer in the dying days of its final, fatal 293rd orbit of the majestic gas giant.
The mosaic is comprised of 42 individual images taken by Cassini's wide-angle camera using red, green and blue spectral filters, that were then combined like the pieces of a jigsaw to create the ominous scene.
The tone of the mosaic perfectly underscores the finality of the situation in which the shots were taken on September 13, 2017 – with only two days remaining in the final orbit of a mission that had spanned just under 20 years from launch.
At this point Cassini was committed to its end, it would never again rise away from Saturn, only inexorably inward toward its final farewell – a passing that marked the end of an era during which we were spoiled with regular, stunning imagery of the Saturnian system.
"It was all too easy to get used to receiving new images from the Saturn system on a daily basis, seeing new sights, watching things change," comments Elizabeth Turtle, an imaging team associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland. "It was hard to say goodbye, but how lucky we were to be able to see it all through Cassini's eyes."
NASA's new mosaic stands as a fond farewell to a spacecraft that has done so much to revolutionize our understanding of our Solar System, and inspire a new generation of astronomers with its breath-taking views of alien landscapes and sweeping rings.
Cassini fans – meet your new super poignant forever desktop background.