Hello! You’ll noticed that I skipped Astronomy Pictures of the Week on Wednesday. That… was on purpose.
Today was Cassini’s last day alive. This morning, Cassini plunged into Saturn, sending back some amazing data, but, in the process, ending its life.
Cassini was launched on October 15th, 1997. For two decades, Cassini revealed the wonders of the greatest planet and planetary system in our solar system to us. We learned so much.
But, now, it’s over…
Here’s a timeline of what went down this morning and when:
1:08 am EDT – High above Saturn, Cassini crosses the orbital distance of Enceladus for the last time
3:14 am EDT – Spacecraft begins a 5-minute roll to point instrument (INMS) that will sample Saturn’s atmosphere and reconfigures systems for real-time data transmission at 27 kilobits per second (3.4 kilobytes per second). Final, real-time relay of data begins (transmission received on Earth at 4:37 am EDT)
3:22 am EDT – High above Saturn, Cassini crosses the orbital distance of the F ring (outermost of the main rings) for the last time
6:31 am EDT – Atmospheric entry begins; thrusters firing at 10% of capacity (transmission received on Earth at 7:54 am EDT)
6:32 am EDT – Thrusters at 100% of capacity; high-gain antenna begins to point away from Earth, leading to loss of signal (transmission received on Earth at 7:55 am EDT)
Goodbye, Cassini. We’re going to miss you.
And I can’t end this without thanking you, Cassini, for what I truly believe is one of the greatest space images ever taken. This has appeared in my APotW series already… in fact, it was the very first one I posted here…