Did You See This?

44 Hours of Saturn

The Cassini spacecraft takes a long, uninterrupted look at the ringed giant.

This video shows us just what the Cassini spacecraft saw when it trained its cameras on Saturn non-stop for 44 hours in April 2016. Cassini is a joint effort of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency), and ASI (the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana), and has been orbiting the ringed planet for 12 years now, having completed its initial mission in 2008.

The craft is wrapping up the second extension of its mission, this one called the Cassini Solstice mission. In 2017, when Cassini wraps up its visit with what’s being dubbed the Grand Finale, it’ll be collecting data on Saturn’s gravitational and magnetic fields, measuring the planet’s ring mass, and sampling its atmosphere and ionosphere.

Cassini will also get one last look at Saturn’s intriguing moon Enceladus before departing. Encedalus is the brightest body in the solar system due to its surface being made up of water ice emanating from vents connected to a subsurface saltwater ocean. And where there’s water, there might be life. One can dream.