Monday, December 05, 2016 | Updated at 7:17 AM ET

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Cassini Getting Closer With Saturn's Rings On Its Final Approach

First Posted: Dec 02, 2016 05:20 AM EST
Illustration of Unmanned spacecraft approaching the planet Saturn

Illustration of Unmanned spacecraft approaching the planet Saturn(Photo : Jose Luis Stephens)

The Cassini space probe started its mission in October 1997 and arrived at Saturn in July 2004. Since then, its orbiting Saturn and capturing breathtaking pictures of this giant planet and its moons. However, it is time for the spacecraft to retire.

In it's last journey, Cassini is expected to dive through the narrow gaps between the Saturn and it's rings. During this journey, it will pass to as close as 1,012 miles above the cloud.

According to NASA's report, Cassini will be circling through the poles of Saturn every seven days for a total of 20 times over the entire period through the unexplored regions of the outer edge of the main rings.During this period, the probe will be able to snap detailed pictures of the rings and polar regions, which was never seen before.

"We're calling this phase of the mission Cassini's Ring-Grazing Orbits because we'll be skimming past the outer edge of the rings". "In addition, we have two instruments that can sample particles and gasses as we cross the ring plane, so in a sense, Cassini is also 'grazing' on the rings."stated by Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

It will also monitor Saturn's atmospheric condition during the ring gazing phase to determine how far it hovers above the planet. This data will help mission engineers to calculate the proximity at which they can safely fly the craft.

During its 12 years of orbiting Saturn, Cassini has discovered Earth look a like world on titan. Titan is the largest moon of Saturn whose diameter is 1.5 times bigger than the Earth's Moon. It is wrapped with  seas, mountains, lakes, rivers and valleys just like Earth.  Cassini also discovered molecules on Titan that NASA called the most "chemically complex" in the solar system.

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