A* Episode 20, Page 27

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  Cassini out with a bang next yearDec 06, 2016 11:24 PM PST | url | discuss | + share
Added 1 new A* page:NASA's highly successful Cassini probe, which has been studying Saturn's rings and moons for the past twelve years, is running low on fuel, and will be sent on a death plunge into Saturn on September 15th, 2017, according to the BBC. Dang! But leading up to that, it will do some pretty cool stuff. Currently it is engaged in a series of 20 orbits that take it over Saturn's north pole, then out to the outer boundary of its main ring system, just past the F ring; during these trips, it will have the chance to sample F ring particles. Then, beginning on April 22nd, it will conduct a series of dives "between the inner edge of the rings and the planet’s atmosphere," so close that "it could pass less than 2,000km above Saturn’s cloud tops." This should "permit close-up investigation of Saturn’s interior"; for instance, there is some hope that it will help us learn the length of a day on the cloud-shrouded giant, whose current day length is only known as vaguely as "10.7 hours plus or minus 0.2 hours."
So that should be pretty spectacular, but I'll still be a little sad to see Cassini go—even just on a visual level, its photos of Saturn and its moons—ice geysers on Enceladus!!—have been spellbinding, and its discoveries—methane seas on Titan!—really have opened up whole new worlds to us. If you want to see some of those amazing photos, and learn more about what Cassini has been up to around Saturn, head on over to NASA JPL's lavishly illustrated Cassini: Mission to Saturn web site.
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