It’s only appropriate that Saturn, debatably the most stunning planet in the Solar System, had its own paparazzo for 13 years. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft began orbiting the gas giant in July 2004 and revealed its sheer monolithic beauty before plunging itself into the planet’s atmosphere.
The image below captures everything space enthusiasts love about Saturn: its fleet of moons, extraordinary rings, and twisting wisps of gas that grace its atmosphere. This violet-light photo was taken by Cassini back in 2005 at the start of its almost 20-year-long mission. Sadly, the satellite took its last lap around the planet in September 2017 when it plummeted into Saturn’s atmosphere and burned up, marking the end of its journey. This image lined up three of Saturn’s most epic features all in one shot, a statement to the success of the flyby mission. Join our private Dope Space Pics group on Facebook for more strange wonder.
The moons Tethys, pictured on the right, and Mimas, near the center, are icy bodies that have long been captured by Saturn’s massive gravitational pull. The planet has 53 moons orbiting it in total, making it the planet with the second most natural satellites in the Solar System. Of course, Saturn has a lot more stuff orbiting it if you count the space debris that makes up its rings.
While Cassini was only able to capture the C ring, seen between the two moons, the shadow of Saturn’s multilayered ring system is seen at the top of the planet. These vast hula hoop particle formations are made up of fragments of ice and rock that can be as tiny as a micrometer or as large as a couple of meters.
Cassini gave astronomers around the world an up close and personal view of one of the Solar System’s most dazzling planets. While it’s work is done, it has given researchers invaluable data about all aspects of Saturn as well as dope pictures for space enthusiasts to marvel at.
Saturn’s moment in the spotlight might be over, but NASA’s Juno spacecraft is currently taking pictures of Jupiter, another magnificent gas giant to fill the void that Cassini has left in our hearts.