Photo: Global Look Press / JPL-Caltech
At SurprizingFacts Repeatedly wrote about the probe Cassini, which has been helping scientists for several years to explore the solar system and objects in it. For a decade the probe collected data on the planets of the solar system by their satellites. With his help, in particular, it was possible to find a whole ocean of water on Enceladus, as well as to learn about the existence of seas from methane on Titan.
The probe was most actively explored by Saturn, in whose orbit it has been since 2004, and its satellites. In particular, last year it moved from the pole to the pole of the gas giant. Each such passage passed through the outer region of the main rings of the planet. The scientific instruments with which the apparatus is equipped made it possible to collect and analyze particles of matter and gases from various regions of the rings of Saturn. Unfortunately, soon Cassini will stop working, ending his life in the atmosphere of Saturn.
On August 14, the system made one of the first dives into the upper layers of the gas giant. This, it can be said, is the beginning of the end planned by the scientists to complete the mission of the device. This stage was called "Grand Finale."
After five successive dives into the atmosphere of Saturn, with the exit to the top, the probe will start the sixth in descent, after which there will no longer be an ascent. Cassini will sink lower and lower until it is destroyed by monstrous pressure and other conditions incompatible with the life of the device that reign on the giant planet. But the destruction of the device will not be in vain – it should give scientists a lot. In particular, it will be possible to obtain a lot of information about the characteristics of the upper and middle layers of the atmosphere of Saturn (the apparatus will not reach the bottom in working order).
The last dive into the dense atmosphere of Saturn will begin on September 15. Unfortunately, the device will not be able to transmit data for a long time – the engines of the device will be useless, and Cassini will not be able to keep the antenna in such a way that the data is sent exactly to the Earth.
In the finals, it will pass very close to the upper clouds – at a distance of 1600 to 1700 km. Scientists do not yet know what the conditions are near the planet. At this stage (before the final dive), Cassini will still be able to correct its position in space with the help of engines. Whatever it was, but the device will collect a lot of data. In particular, the "northern lights" of Saturn will be studied, information on the temperature on the planet will be obtained, and also scientists hope to better understand the nature of the hexagonal hurricane.
The radars of the device will be able to catch the structural elements of the atmosphere with a size of 25 km. This is 100 times less than it was possible with the usual orbit, on which the device was up to the present moment.
The "Grand Final" also provides for a pass near the largest satellite of Saturn, Titan. It will happen on September 11th. The gravity of Titan will slow down the speed of Cassini and change the trajectory of its motion in such a way that the probe gets to the upper atmosphere of Saturn on September 15.
"During these five days, which will be the last for Cassini, it will be the first Saturnian atmospheric probe in history," said project spokeswoman Linda Speaker, NASA employee. "We have long planned to send the probe into the atmosphere of Saturn, and we plan to study the data in order to continue the research in the future."
The scientists decided to send the probe to perform a deadly task for him for a reason. The fact is that for many years of service to the Earth, Cassini spent almost all of its fuel. For the project team, this did not come as a surprise, and in the future she developed a script that would help the probe to obtain information valuable to science before it disappears behind clouds, literally and figuratively.
About what "sees" Cassini, while next to Saturn, will help get a view of the video, collected from thousands of photographs. The video quality is 4K.
By the way, thanks to this zone experts have got an idea about the structure of Enceladus. It turned out that the planetoid, covered with bark of ice, hides beneath it an ocean of warm water. Preliminary research data allow us to say that the subglacial environment is suitable for the existence of life there. But to be precise, unfortunately, it is impossible, since further research is needed. Thanks to Cassini it became clear that liquid water in the solar system is more likely a rule than an exception. So, the probability of existence of life outside the Earth also increases.