New Delhi: NASA's Cassini mission is currently in its grand finale phase and is inching toward its graceful finish. At present, the spacecraft is performing flybys of the planet Saturn, making its closest approaches to the rings.
The mission, which is about to end in September this year with Cassini performing a death plunge into the gas giant, has definitely been a fruitful one owing to all the wonderfully insightful information scientists have managed to glean from it.
Every new image beamed back by Cassini during its last mission has come bearing some evolutionary secret or shows an unpredictable side of the planet or a feature that would have otherwise been impossible to envisage.
Now, NASA has shared an image photographed by Cassini before it entered its Grand Finale orbits, showing unprecedented views of the outer edges of Saturn's main ring system.
The image was part of a mosaic that included the planet's moon Daphnis (PIA17212).
According to NASA, Daphnis creates waves in the edges of the gap through its gravitational influence. Some clumping of ring particles can be seen in the perturbed edge, similar to what was seen on the edges of the Encke Gap back when Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 3 degrees above the ring plane. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 18,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) from Daphnis and at a Sun-Daphnis-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 69 degrees. Image scale is 581 feet (177 meters) per pixel. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on January 16, 2017.