Cassini sends pictures of Saturn’s Dione moon before ending 11 years of journey

The Cassini spacecraft has captured the final set of close-up images of Saturn’s icy moon Dione. Last Monday, the probe took a last pass at the giant planet’s moon; it was just 500 km away from the pockmarked surface.

This is the fifth time that the spacecraft has passed through the ringed planet in the past 11 years i.e. since Cassini started touring the planet in 2004, and it is believed that this was final one too. The year 2017 will see the craft taking a destructive dive into the planet’s atmosphere.

Carolyn Porco, the leader of the mission’s imaging team, said that she has been moved by these amazing images of the icy moon’s crescent and surface and knows that everyone else also shares her feelings. She added that the event is really moving for them as they are aware of the fact that these are the final images they will see of Dione for years to come.

Porco stated that like it has always done, even during the final days of its tour Cassini has devotedly delivered another amazing set of pictures. She said that this makes her and her team feel lucky.

The year 2011 witnessed the closest ever approach to Saturn’s icy moon. In 2011, the US, Italian, and European space agency-mission passed through an area that was just 100 km away from Dione.

The diameter of Saturn’s moon Dione is 1,122 km, which makes it the 4th largest moon among the 62 moons the giant planet has. As mentioned above Dione has an icy surface; however, its interior is pretty rocky.

One of the most significant findings of the Cassini mission is that there’s a flimsy oxygen atmosphere in that world. The spacecraft has also spotted possible signs of it being active.

In 2016, Cassini will be initiating a series of maneuvers for putting itself on orbits that will take it upwards and then allow it to move through the rings of Saturn. The next year i.e. 2017, on the other hand, will see the craft doing something destructive. Next year, the probe will run out of its fuel. As a result, ground controllers will be commanding the craft to jump into Saturn’s atmosphere, which will lead to the destruction of Cassini. All Pics of Dione are here and video here.