Cassini Spacecraft Heads Toward The Gateway To Its Grand Finale This Weekend

Cassini Saturn Mission

NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which orbits Saturn, took a picture of Earth from between Saturn's rings - with Earth's moon doing a bit of photobombing.

NASA just published this remarkable photo captured by its Cassini spacecraft on April 12th, 2017.

With its Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) visible light camera, Cassini will capture both regional and global mosaics of the hemisphere facing the spacecraft, focusing especially on mid-southern latitudes, including a basin named Hotei Regio, which appears to have had active ice volcanoes in its recent past.

Earth's moon is also visible nearby in a cropped, zoomed-in version of the image.

The first orbit of the inner rings will begin on April 23 and will have its first pass through the gap between Saturn and its rings by April 26.

Launched in 1997, Cassini reached Saturn in 2004 and has been exploring it from orbit ever s. It will approach Titan closer at 608 miles (979 kilometers) above the surface of Titan at a speed of about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph).

The Space agency has also explained why the termination of the mission has something to do with preventing the Cassini spacecraft from contaminating Saturn's moons.

The ship has given experts an unprecedented view of Saturn and its 62 moons since its arrival at the ringed-planet 12 years ago.

In the 20 years it's spent in space, this intrepid orbiter has enabled the publication of over 3,000 scientific reports. Next up for the spacecraft is a final flyby of the intriguing moon Titan, and its hydrocarbon seas. "The plumes on Enceladus are associated with hotter regions, so after Hubble imaged this new plume-like feature on Europa, we looked at that location on the Galileo thermal map". Grand finale is a set of final 22 plunges during which the spacecraft will repeatedly dive through the narrow gaps between the Saturn and its rings.

A 2013 view of Earth from Saturn. It won't be easy to say goodbye, but thanks to the probe, Saturn's family album is bursting with remarkable images that will forever remind us the tenacity of this incredible machine and the vision and work of those who kept it operating for so many years. The most spectacular part of the image is the fact that it was shot from between Saturn's rings, with the bold A ring seen above the Earth and bright F ring creeping into the original photo at the bottom.