The American probe Cassini resumed contact early Thursday with NASA after its passage in the zone that separates Saturn from its rings. In orbit around Saturn since 2004, this is his last adventure before disintegrating into the atmosphere of the gaseous planet.
The contact between the Earth and Cassini had been lost in the morning on Wednesday, since its antenna had to be protected from the particles that it risked to strike during its crossing.
On Twitter, NASA wrote: “And there! We fly in space between Saturn and its rings. The instruments are on, but we no longer have contact with the Earth. ”
— CassiniSaturn (@CassiniSaturn) April 26, 2017
During this period, the probe approached the cloudy layer of Saturn to collect data and images thanks to its twelve instruments of observation. Her cosmic dust analyzer picked up particles through the rings.
The contact was restored approximately 24 hours later and the probe began transmitting scientific images and data again.
“The last part of Cassini’s life will really be like fireworks, because by venturing between the surface of Saturn and its rings, the ship will make scientific measurements that would otherwise have been impossible,” noted this week Luciano Iess, a member of Cassini’s research team at the Italian university La Sapienza.
Between Saturn’s rings, Cassini now has to perform about twenty orbits before plunging on September 15 in the atmosphere of the planet where it will disintegrate.
“What we will learn from the last Cassini orbits will allow us to perfect our understanding of the formation and evolution of planetary systems in general,” said NASA’s deputy scientific officer Thomas Zurbuchen. This last mission.
The Cassini probe began documenting the planet to the rings in 2004, seven years after its launch. Her mission will end on September 15th as she will have exhausted all her fuel.
Cassini thus completes his scientific mission in beauty, since no other probe has explored the 2,400 kilometers between Saturn and its rings.
“Cassini has produced a treasure trove of discoveries, which will make us rewrite the books of planetary science on many subjects,” says a scientist of the mission to the European Space Agency, Nicolas Altobelli.
The probe recently carried out a 127th close-up of Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan, where she had already discovered seas of liquid methane. Then, on another smaller moon, Enceladus, a vast ocean of salt water had been observed beneath a frozen surface.