Cassini did it again! On May 2-3, 2017 the spacecraft made its second “ring dive” pass of Saturn, passing through the clear space between the innermost edge of the ring system and the planet itself. The animation above shows a view from Cassini looking back toward Saturn on its outbound flight on May 3, just a few hours after the ringplane crossing. Saturn’s limb is visible at upper left.
What’s more, NASA has released a detailed video from the first ring dive on April 26, showing all of the images that were captured and where on Saturn Cassini’s cameras were pointed. Check it out below.
April 26 saw the first of 22 closest-ever passes of Saturn by Cassini, part of the “Grand Finale” final phase of its mission at the ringed planet, which officially began when it entered orbit on July 1, 2004.
During the dive Cassini got within 1,840 miles (2,950 km) of Saturn’s atmosphere and also passed within 2,960 miles (4,760 km) of the inside edge of Saturn’s innermost ring. Cassini’s Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) captured visible-light pictures along the way.
Because of the high relative velocity of the spacecraft with Saturn the first pass images are a bit dark and grainy, and weren’t captured in color channels.
“The images from the first pass were great, but we were conservative with the camera settings. We plan to make updates to our observations for a similar opportunity on June 28 that we think will result in even better views,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a member of the Cassini imaging team based at Caltech in Pasadena, California.