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An image of Enceladus taken by the Cassini Spacecraft upon its 3000 mile flyby. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini Completes final flyby of Enceladus

The Cassini spacecraft has made its final flyby of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus as it nears the end of its mission. The spacecraft took a number of closeup photos of the moon as it passed within 3,106 miles.

While this is the final flyby by Cassini, Enceladus will still be within sight of the spacecraft until the end of its mission, though at a much greater distance.

A close-up image of the 380 km long ridge known as Samarkand Sulci. The ridges are about 1.5 km in height. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
A close-up image of the 380 km long ridge known as Samarkand Sulci. The ridges are about 1.5 km in height. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

“This final Enceladus flyby elicits feelings of both sadness and triumph,” said Earl Maize, project manager of the Cassini mission.

Cassini began its orbit around Saturn in 2004 and has made several flybys of Enceladus since then, including its daring pass through one of the moons many icy plumes last October.

Cassini was also used to find evidence of the global saltwater ocean under the icy shell of Enceladus, making it one of the best candidates for life beyond Earth.

“Cassini has made so many breathtaking discoveries about Enceladus, yet so much more remains to be done to answer that pivotal question, ‘Does this tiny ocean world harbor life?'” Said Linda Spikler, Cassini project scientist.

Another close-up of Enceladus snapped by Cassini upon approach. Credit: Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Another close-up of Enceladus snapped by Cassini upon approach. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini is now headed to another of Saturn’s moons, Titan, which contains surface hydrocarbon lakes.

The Cassini mission will conclude in September 2017 as it will orbit Saturn several times before plunging into the atmosphere of the gas giant planet in what had been dubbed the “Cassini Grand Finale.”

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Harry H

Harry is currently studying biology and chemistry in University and hopes to go to grad school for evolutionary biology. He enjoys writing about sciences and sports and is a big fan of hockey and soccer. Some of his other interests are reading and rock climbing.
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