Since beginning the latest phase of its mission, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturns atmosphere – showing scenes from high above the planet’s northern hemisphere, including an intriguing hexagon-shaped jet stream.
Cassini began its new mission phase, called its Ring-Grazing Orbits, on November 30.
Each of these weeklong orbits – 20 in all – carries the spacecraft high above Saturn’s northern hemisphere before sending it skimming past the outer edges of the planet’s main rings.
Cassini’s imaging cameras acquired these latest views on December 2 and 3, about two days before the first ring-grazing approach to the planet, NASA said.
Future passes will include images from near closest approach, including some of the closest-ever views of the outer rings and small moons that orbit there.
“This is it, the beginning of the end of our historic exploration of Saturn. Let these images – and those to come – remind you that we’ve lived a bold and daring adventure around the solar system’s most magnificent planet,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado.