NASA has released a movie stitched together from the photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft on its first dive under the rings of Saturn. This close approach to the gas giant was the first step in the series of ever-tighter orbits that will culminate in a final plunge into the atmosphere in September.
The movie compresses an hour’s worth of observations into 30 seconds, as the craft swooped southward over the dark vortex at Saturn’s north pole and the hexagonal jet stream beyond it. At its closest approach, Cassini was 6,700 km above the atmosphere and able to spot features as small as 800 m across.
With the lessons learned from this dive, NASA’s scientists plan to adjust Cassini’s camera settings to catch even better images on future passes.
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