New NASA Cassini Image Shows Exact Spot in Saturn’s Atmosphere Where the Spacecraft Crashed

Although NASA’s Cassini spacecraft came to a historic end back in September, new information and images continue to be released from its nearly two-decade long journey.

In the latest image, published by the space agency on February 20, a view of Saturn’s night side lit up by sunlight reflected from the planet’s rings is visible.

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The photo, which can be seen here or in the tweet below, is a mosaic of some of the last images taken by the probe, according to a NASA statement. It was taken with a wide-angle camera that used a combination of colored filters—red, green and blue—to depict the natural color of the ringed planet.

Despite the image appearing as if the camera was situated just feet away from the planet, it was actually taken from about 394,000 miles away. Towards the right side of the photo, a small white oval is shown, which marks the place where Cassini’s journey eventually came to an end on September 15, 2017.

“The oval marks the entry site,” according to NASA. “While this area was on the night side of the planet at the time, it would rotate into daylight by the time Cassini made its final dive into Saturn's upper atmosphere, ending its remarkable 13-year exploration of Saturn.”

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The spacecraft deliberately plunged into Saturn because it was low on rocket fuel, which is used to adjust its course. If mission operators would have ignored that, they would eventually no longer be able to control where it was going.

“Two moons of Saturn, Enceladus and Titan, have captured news headlines over the past decade as Cassini data revealed their potential to contain habitable – or at least ‘prebiotic’ – environments,”  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains on its website. “In order to avoid the unlikely possibility of Cassini someday colliding with one of these moons, NASA chose to safely dispose of the spacecraft in the atmosphere of Saturn.”