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Where is the Cassini Spacecraft right now?

The app above shows the position of the Cassini Spacecraft right now - in its orbit about Saturn. You can wind the animation backwards in time to watch its launch and its flybys of Venus, the Earth, Jupiter, and insertion into orbit around Saturn. If you zoom in closer you can just about see where it is in its orbit.

Cassini News

Cassini prepares for last few months of daring action around Saturn

Scientists are bracing for a blitz of discoveries in the last six months of Cassiniís mission at Saturn, when the plutonium-powered robot will repeatedly ram through an unexplored gap in the planetís famous rings, then make a destructive plunge into the atmosphere in September. Article.

Daphnis Causes Waves in Saturn's Rings

Saturn's Moon Daphnis

Cassini image of Saturn's Moon Daphnis. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The wavemaker moon, Daphnis, is featured in this view, taken as NASA's Cassini spacecraft made one of its ring-grazing passes over the outer edges of Saturn's rings on Jan. 16, 2017. This is the closest view of the small moon obtained yet.

Daphnis (5 miles or 8 kilometers across) orbits within the 42-kilometer (26-mile) wide Keeler Gap. Cassini's viewing angle causes the gap to appear narrower than it actually is, due to foreshortening.

The little moon's gravity raises waves in the edges of the gap in both the horizontal and vertical directions. Cassini was able to observe the vertical structures in 2009, around the time of Saturn's equinox (see PIA11654).

Full Article

The hexagonal winds at Saturn's poles

Saturn's hexagonal poles

Cassini images of Saturn's poles - each taken with different filters. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

This collage of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn's northern hemisphere and rings as viewed with four different spectral filters. Each filter is sensitive to different wavelengths of light and reveals clouds and hazes at different altitudes.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 2, 2016, at a distance of about 400,000 miles (640,000 kilometers) from Saturn.

These images were obtained about two days before its first close pass by the outer edges of Saturn's main rings during its penultimate mission phase. Article

Cassini Getting closer for best ever views of rings and moons

Cassini is getting ready for it's finale when it will crash into Saturn. As a prelude it will start grazing the rings. Article

Cassini Sees Summer Clouds on Titan

Cassini Spacecraft - Four days at Saturn

Dunes on Titan

Image of Dione

Saturns Moon Dione from Cassini

A view of Saturn's moon Dione captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby on June 16, 2015. The diagonal line near upper left are the rings of Saturn, in the distance. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini perform a last close flyby of Saturn’s Moon Dione on August 17th 2015.

Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. After a series of close moon flybys in late 2015, the spacecraft will depart Saturn's equatorial plane -- where moon flybys occur most frequently -- to begin a year-long setup of the mission's daring final year. For its grand finale, Cassini will repeatedly dive through the space between Saturn and its rings. Read more here.

Cassini Spacecraft - 10 years of achievements

Cassini Flight Path

Cassini-Huygens was launched on 15th October 1997. It was comprised of two spacecraft - Cassini to orbit Saturn for many years studying the planet and its moons and rings, and Huygens - an atmospheric probe which successfully landed on Saturn’s largest moon Titan.

The flight path involved 4 gravitational assists with 2 fly-pasts of Venus, one of the earth and a final flypast of Jupiter before the spacecraft eventually reached Saturn. Asteroid 2685 Masursky was also imaged (as a small dot) on the way from a distance of 1.6 million km.

Manoeuvre Date
Earth, Launch 15 October 1997
Venus, Flyby 26 April 26 1998
Venus, Flyby 24 June 1999
Earth, Flyby 18 August 1999
Asteroid 2685 Masursky, Flyby 23 January 2000
Jupiter, Flyby 30 December 2000
Saturn, Orbit Achieved 30 June 2004
Huygens Probe released 25 December 2004
Huygens Probe entered Titans Atmosphere 14 January 2005

Cassini Orbit Insertion

The insertion into orbit around Saturn was fraught with danger from possible collisions with dust and bigger particles orbiting Saturn. For an in-depth description of the process this article written just before orbit was achieved provides an interesting view of the complex procedures required to reach orbit safely.

Cassini initial Orbits - NASA/JPL

The first orbit of Saturn reached a maximum distance of some 9 million km from the planets centre. Subsequent engine burns reduced that distance to around half or less for most of the rest of the mission. At its closest part of each orbit Cassini generally reaches about 1 million km from the planet.

Huygens Probe and Titan

Cassini Spacecraft - 10 years of achievements

The Surface of Titan

Surface of Titan

Cassini released the probe Huygens, on the 25th December, 2004 and it entered Titan's atmosphere on the 14th January 2005. It took 2.5 hours for the lander to reach the surface and was able to transmit data for a further 90 minutes which was longer than it was design to do. Huygens remains the furthest any probe has ever landed from earth.

The images Huygens returned appeared to show a shore line with channels leading into a methane sea. After a short bounce after hitting the ground, the probe returned images showing a flat plane strewn with (possibly ice) pebbles. The temperature was -180 degrees C and the atmosphere was high in methane vapour with gentle winds at the surface (after experiencing 400km/hour winds at high altitude).

Cassini Findings

Cassini has undoubtedly found out more about Saturnian system than was ever known before. For an in-depth report (at 1 hour 16 minutes long) with some fantastic imagery, watch the following video.

Cassini Mission End

The initial mission was extended in 2008 as the Cassini Equinox Mission and was then extended again as the current Cassini Solstice Mission. This mission will end with the spacecraft deliberately entering into Saturn's atmosphere in 2017 which will destroy the spacecraft.

 

More Information:

Cassini Mission - JPL/NASA
Cassini Mission - ESA
Huygens Probe - Wikipedia
Cassini Mission - 15 years of exploration video

Image Credits:

"NASA-Saturn-Cassini-TenYears-20140624" by NASA/JPL-Caltech - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/cassini/20140625/cassini20140624b-full.jpg.
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

"SaturnMoon-Titan-ProbeLanding-20150114" by NASA/JPL-Caltech - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/cassini/20150114/cassini20150114b-full.jpg.
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

"Huygens surface color sr" by Andrey Pivovarov - Combined the pre-processed raw triplets #773, #931, #948, #961, #985 and #991 taken from [1] using the PhotoAcute Studio[2] software and overlayed the colored image taken from [3]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.