The Cassini mission is nearing its end, but the probe has not said its last word. On May 2, she sent the first sound recordings of the silence that reigns in the void between the planet and its rings.
It will never be repeated enough, but the Cassini mission was undoubtedly one of the most prolific in the history, although still recent, of space exploration. The probe will have enabled researchers to refine their knowledge of the Saturnian system considerably. Enceladus, Titan, Mimas, Dioné, Pan, and Saturn herself, Cassini did not hesitate to take advantage of his last breath. In the final stages of its mission, the probe recently plunged between the rings of Saturn and managed to record sounds of the planet that are actually plasma waves converted into sound.
These are here plasma waves produced by electrons of the ring D of Saturn. What you are going to hear is actually those dust particles that touch the antennae of the instrument with which Cassini records the sound waves of this region of space. These data were captured on April 26, when the probe was first found between Saturn and its nearest ring.
— Scott Sutherland (@ScottWx_TWN) April 27, 2017
One of its instruments had already measured the density of matter crossed last December. He had then recorded hundreds of particle shocks on the probe when Cassini had passed just outside the rings of Saturn. Each dust striking the antenna sounded like a crackling or sizzling noise, but these recordings are completely different. Here is the December 2016 registration:
The first images of a dive between Saturn and its inner rings has arrived back on Earth.
Cassini made its second ring pass on May 2 and is due for another one on May 9. NASA scientists think even better images are yet to come.
Cassini imaging team associate Kunio Sayanagi said: “I was surprised to see so many sharp edges along the hexagon’s outer boundary and the eye-wall of the polar vortex.
“Something must be keeping different latitudes from mixing to maintain those edges.”
“The images from the first pass were great, but we were conservative with the camera settings,” Andrew Ingersoll, a member of the Cassini imaging team, said in a press statement.
Cassini, launched in 1997, has begun its slingshot manoeuvre which will ultimately see it orbit into Saturn’s atmosphere that will cause the ship to break up upon entering.
The ship has given experts an unprecedented view of Saturn and its 62 moons since its arrival at the ringed-planet 12 years ago.