Our Cassini spacecraft gazes across the icy rings of Saturn toward the icy moon Tethys, whose night side is illuminated by Saturnshine, or sunlight reflected by the planet. Tethys was on the far side of Saturn with respect to Cassini here; an observer looking upward from the moon's surface toward Cassini would see Saturn's illuminated disk filling the sky. This image was taken in visible light on May 13, 2017.
Now 20 years since launching from Earth, and after 13 years orbiting the ringed planet and its moons, our Cassini mission is in its ‘Grand Finale’ leading to September 15, when the mission will end with a purposeful plunge into Saturn this year in order to protect and preserve the planet's moons for future exploration – especially the potentially habitable Enceladus. The Cassini spacecraft recently entered new territory in this final mission phase, embarking on a set of ultra-close passes through Saturn’s upper atmosphere with its final five orbits around the planet.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
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