Introduction: Kingdom of Saturn (01:56)
The Cassini spacecraft has been travelling through space for more than 20 years. It has collected years of data from Saturn. Its final mission will be to fly toward the heart of Saturn, which will destroy it.
NASA and the European Space Agency launched Cassini in 1997. Scientists had many questions about Saturn. Satellites had flown by, but Cassini would be the first to orbit the planet.
Cassini and Huygens (03:01)
The mission's official name honors two 17th century scientists. Both were important members of the scientific revolution and contributed to astrology and astrophysics.
Saturn Rings and Moons (04:13)
Huygens explained Saturn's rings shortly after Galileo discovered them. The rings cannot be seen from most of Saturn's moons because they are on the ring plane. Saturn has more than 50 moons.
Saturn's moon was first photographed in the 1980s. Part of Enceladus has been recently been found to have geysers, which contain possible signs of life.
Saturn's largest moon has extremely cold temperatures but is also wet. It could contain life unlike anything that could survive on Earth. In 2005, a probe broke off Cassini and landed on Titan, finding liquid methane.
Ring Discoveries (06:23)
Numerous astronomers, including Cassini and Huygens, made discoveries about Saturn's rings. Many of the rings are not solid and are made of numerous rocks and particles.
Shepherd Moons (03:34)
Saturn has numerous small moons that orbit within the rings causing them to divide.
Once every 14 years, Saturn's ring are on the same plane as the sun. They do not give off light or cast shadows on Saturn. Any object within the rings casts a shadow on the rings.
Cassini's Final Mission (04:15)
The final mission to Saturn will destroy the spacecraft. Researchers hope to preserve the conditions on the moons; Cassini is warm inside and could interfere with conditions if it were to crash.
Credits: Kingdom of Saturn (01:19)
Credits: Kingdom of Saturn
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