On April 26, the Cassini spacecraft flew closer to Saturn than ever before — between the gap that separates the planet from its rings.
Since then, Cassini has been transmitting dozens of images of Saturn’s surface. Here, NASA has compiled all the images into one, incredible video that reveals exactly what Cassini saw.
One of the sights that surprised scientists most was the sharp edges of Saturn’s hexagon and its central vortex. Saturn’s hexagon is a giant cloud system on Saturn’s north pole, and it contains a central vortex.
The sharp edges scientists saw in these latest images suggests that the cloud system and its vortex are not mixing with their surroundings. But what’s preventing the clouds in the hexagon from mixing with the clouds right next to it is a mystery.
This first dive marked the beginning of the end for Cassini. For the last 13 years, Cassini has explored Saturn and its moons. But its time will come to an end this September, when it will enter Saturn’s atmosphere and burn up.