After a nearly 20 year adventure, the Cassini spacecraft will go out with a bang on Friday, September 15, when it plunges into the atmosphere of Saturn and burns up. This fiery farewell is necessary because the probe will soon run out of the fuel needed to make orbital corrections, and NASA is concerned that in the future a dead and drifting probe might accidentally crash into (and pollute) one of the icy moons, such as Enceladus or Titan. But even in its death, Cassini will increase our understanding of Saturn’s cloud layers. For a summary of all the historic discoveries made by this amazing mission, see the NASA website.
Saturn is still visible in the night sky, visible in the south above and to the left of the bright red star Antares in Scorpius directly after sunset. If you have a telescope, even a small one, why not view the ringed planet for yourself before Cassini’s demise and wave fond farewell in the direction of one of the finest spacecraft ever sent into the outer solar system!
Weather permitting, the Copernican Observatory will view Saturn this Saturday night (September 16) after the regularly scheduled free public planetarium show. The planetarium show begins at 8 PM. For more information, consult our website.