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See a Newly-Released Image of Saturn’s Moon Dione

2 minute read

NASA released this never-before-seen image of Saturn’s moon Dione as the Cassini spacecraft said goodbye to it on August 17. Photos of the final encounter are expected to reach Earth in the next few days.

Cassini was the first spacecraft to enter Saturn’s orbit, and for the last 11 years, it’s been studying the planet and its many satellites including Dione, Titan and Rhea. Cassini will now make a series of close moon flybys until late 2015, at which time it will begin a year-long setup of the mission’s daring finale, NASA said, when it will repeatedly dive through the space between Saturn and its rings.

In the meantime, NASA’s scientists will await the final high-resolution images from Dione to come in, especially those the spacecraft will take of the moon’s north pole. They hope to find out if Dione has geological activity. “Dione has been an enigma, giving hints of active geologic processes, including a transient atmosphere and evidence of ice volcanoes,” says Bonnie Buratti, a Cassini science team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “But we’ve never found the smoking gun. The fifth flyby of Dione [was] our last chance.”

Discover the Beauty of Saturn's Polar Vortex

Saturn Vortex Cassini Color 2013
The vortex of Saturn's north polar storm is seen in this false-color image taken from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The eye is an estimated 1,250 miles across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour.SSL/JPL-CalTech/NASA
Saturn storm Cassini 2011
A huge storm churned through the atmosphere in Saturn's northern hemisphere in July 2011.Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images
Saturn cassini polar vortex storm 2013
The Cassini spacecraft captured the storms at Saturn's north pole in this false color image released in April 2013. The storm appears dark red while the fast-moving hexagonal jet stream framing it is a yellowish green. Low-lying clouds circling inside the hexagonal feature appear in orange. A second, smaller vortex pops out in teal at the lower right of the image. The rings of Saturn appear in vivid blue at the top right. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
Saturn North Pole Cassini gif 2012
The highest-resolution view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn's north pole known as "the hexagon." The eight frames of the movie were captured over 10 hours on Dec. 10, 2012.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University
Saturn polar vortex hexagon cassini
A view of Saturn's north polar vortex and hexagon acquired at a distance of approximately 2 million miles (3 million kilometers) from Saturn.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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