After 13 years orbiting Saturn the Cassini probe has ended it's life as it entered the atmosphere at a staggering 76,000 mph. The force exerted, quite simply tore the probe to pieces. However, the mission has to be considered one of the most successful ever for NASA and below are some of the highlights of the mission:
- Furthered our understanding of Saturn's rings: Earlier this year scientists announced that data collected by Cassini suggests the rings might only be 100 million years old, far younger than originally thought.
- Landed on Saturn's largest moon Titan: In January 2005 the Huygens landing probe left Cassini and sailed down to the surface of Titan. The descent through the atmosphere, which took over 2 hours, provided scientists with information on the composition and temperature of the atmosphere. Huygens still holds the record as the spacecraft that has landed furthest from Earth.
- Discovered water gushing from geysers on one of Saturn's moons (Enceladus) - this told scientists that habitats capable of supporting life may not be as rare as once thought.
- Provided images of huge storms at both the north and south poles of Saturn: The hurricane raging at the north pole is approximately 50 times as big as those on Earth and has wind speeds of around 150 m/s, to put that in perspective, a hurricane requires 70 m/s to be considered a force 5 hurricane, the most destructive classification.
Farewell Cassini, and well done!