The Cassini spacecraft returned the closest, clearest images of Saturn’s atmosphere as it swooped between the gas giant and its rings last month. NASA recently released a video showing an hour’s worth of images in time lapse, so you can make out tiny details in this never-before-explored part of our solar system.
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The most striking image of the footage is the dark spot at the very beginning, which is actually, according to NASA, “the swirling vortex at the planet’s north pole.”
Cassini raced through the gap, which scientists are calling “The Big Empty” as it doesn’t have the high levels of dust they were anticipating. The scientists plan to get even better images when they try again, according to one member of the imaging team:
The images from the first pass were great, but we were conservative with the camera settings. We plan to make updates to our observations for a similar opportunity on June 28 that we think will result in even better views.
This is the first of several missions in Cassini’s Grand Finale, the final mission of it’s 13-year-long exploration of Saturn. It will culminate in the spacecraft plunging headlong into Saturn’s atmosphere in September.