Final pictures from Cassini's farewell tour of the Saturn system

Cassini showed us worlds beyond our own.

Cassini is on course to plunge through Saturn's atmosphere and vaporize like a meteor Friday morning. During the predawn hours, the spacecraft dipped into the Saturn clouds and was ripped apart.

The spacecraft, in a first, ventured around Saturn through the gap between the planet and its rings.

After 13 years of examining the wonders of Saturn and its surroundings, Cassini's journey in space has ended in fire after a last flood of data.

But as the world waited for Cassini's final radio messages to reach Earth, the planet's Twitter users could hardly stand it. #GrandFinale and #GoodbyeCassini were two hashtags used to thank the craft for its service.

When was the last message?: Actually, Cassini sent one final bit of data before it crashed and burn, according to NASA, at about 7:55 a.m. ET on Friday.

The spacecraft's dive to the planet is the final step of the mission, which was to take pictures and collect key information about its environment.

Cassini, an global project that cost $3.9 billion and included scientists from 27 nations, disintegrated as it dove into Saturn's atmosphere at a speed of 75,000 miles (120,700 kilometers) per hour.


The decision to end the mission was made because the probe would soon run out of fuel and become impossible to steer.

Saturn's active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Following its death, Nasa tweeted: "Every time we see Saturn in the night sky, we'll remember".

Cassini image of Saturn's geyser-blasting moon Enceladus, captured on September 13, 2017.

While telescopes will be pointed at Saturn to try and capture Cassini's last moments, it likely will be moving too fast (and is too small) for any images.

A European Space Agency probe carried by the orbiter, called Huygens, made worldwide headlines when it landed on Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons, in January 2005. Project officials invited ground telescopes to look for Cassini's last-gasp flash, but weren't hopeful it would be spotted from a billion miles away. "The signal from the spacecraft is gone and within the next 45 seconds, so will be the spacecraft", said NASA JPL Cassini program manager Earl Maize. "The Cassini mission has taught us so very much", he said.

Cassini's discoveries have fundamentally reshaped scientists' understanding of Saturn, and of the solar system's life-hosting potential.


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