Just before 10:00pm (AEST) this evening, 15 September 2017, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will end its 20-year mission of discovery as a fireball screaming through the skies of Saturn.
Since leaving Earth in October 1997, Cassini has seen Saturn and its rings up close, landed a probe on the icy crust of Titan, detected water spraying from the cryovolcanoes of Enceladus, and changed our understanding of the Solar System.
You can watch Cassini’s final act along with NASA scientists in the live stream from mission control below. The live broadcast will begin at 9 pm AEST (11am GMT, 7am EDT).
It’s expected that the signal from Cassini will cut out around 55 minutes later as the probe begins to burn up as it descends into the atmosphere. The spectacular flame-out is to ensure that no terrestrial life – in the form of possible stowaway microbes and the like – stands a chance of contaminating Saturn or its moons.
It takes about 80 minutes for signals to reach Earth from Saturn. By the time the broadcast starts, Cassini will already be gone.
Michael Lucy is a former features editor of Cosmos.
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