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The an extremely last pictures NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took prior to it crashed Friday are some of its many meaningful.

Here’s what the 20-year-old spacecraft experienced just prior to it powered under its cameras for the last time and prepared for a last plunge right into Saturn’s gauzy atmosphere. That of the icy moon Enceladus setting behind Saturn.


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NASA/JPL

Many year earlier, Cassini uncovered that Enceladus has a remarkable feature: plumes of water vapor and gas shoot the end of crack in the surface. That water means there’s a liquid s beneath the ice-covered surface, i m sorry may have geothermal vents choose those found at the bottom of our oceans. The exploration was immense: the shot Enceladus come the peak of the list of locations where we can possibly uncover life in ours solar system. It can be the site of a 2nd genesis — whereby life formed, evolved, and prospered undisturbed on one more world. If also a few small microbes were uncovered in that is waters, it would be among the biggest scientific findings of every time.

This image over says farewell to Enceladus, but it likewise beckons; us must, someday, go earlier to watch if yes life there.

These space what the really best photos native the Cassini mission do: lock make united state contemplate our ar in the universe and help us imagine what’s potentially out over there in the way-out-there. Due to the fact that the Cassini mission began, scientists have discovered thousands the planets outside our own solar system. Investigate the moons the Saturn (and Jupiter) help us gain an understanding of what planets can look like throughout the galaxy.

Here are some of the very best, most inspiring pictures from the mission.

A photograph of the entire Earth

This will more than likely be remembered as the most famed image native the Cassini mission. The a photo of Earth, as watched from the dark side of Saturn. We’re just a speck that dust.


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In this rare photo taken ~ above July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA"s Cassini spacecraft has recorded Saturn"s rings and our world Earth and its moon in the very same frame. NASA / JPL
Lakes on Titan

Saturn’s biggest moon is Titan. The was uncovered in 1655, however it wasn’t till Cassini and the Huygens lander that us knew how wonderful and complicated a civilization it is. Titan is kind of like a bizarro variation of Earth: It has a thick, nitrogen-dense atmosphere, whereby it rains down methane and other fluid hydrocarbons, which flow into amazing, earthlike features. There are rivers, lakes, mountains, and volcanoes. The following photo is shoot in infrared, i beg your pardon cuts through the hazy upper atmosphere to reveal some surface features.


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NASA / JPL
Landing ~ above Titan

The European space Agency–built Huygens lander hitched a drive on Cassini, detached, and also actually touched under on the surface of Titan. This is what the saw: a rocky landscape about a billion miles from Earth.


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NASA / JPA/ ESA
Here’s Titan in orbit around Saturn.


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NASA/ JPL
Plumes on Enceladus

Here, water vapor escapes from vents on Enceladus.


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NASA /JPL
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NASA / JPL
Saturn’s hexagon

One that the many beautiful attributes Cassini imaged: The clouds at Saturn’s north pole kind a substantial hexagonal storm.


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NASA / JPL
And in ~ the an extremely center of the hexagon is a vortex that looks like a rose.


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NASA / JPL
The glorious rings

Of course, Saturn’s defining characteristic is that gorgeous rings. However they’re not simply pretty come look at. Scientists think it’s in the swirling material of the rings that new moons deserve to form. And it can be a model environment for exactly how the planets formed about the sun.


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“These space the highest-resolution color images of any part of Saturn"s rings, to date,” NASA defines NASA / JPL
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Saturn"s icy ring shine in scattered sunshine in this view, i beg your pardon looks toward the unilluminated northern side that the ring from about 15 degrees over the ring plane. NASA/JPL
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Cassini gazes across the icy rings of Saturn towards the icy moon Tethys, who night side is illuminated through Saturn shine, or sunlight reflected through the planet. NASA /JPL
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Saturn projects a shadow on that rings. NASA/JPL
Cassini has also spotted this “propeller” patterns in the rings. They’re make by little moonlets that kind in the rings.


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NASA / JPL
Saturn, backlit

Here, Cassini take away a photo of Saturn backlit by the sun. The bright exposes the gauzy texture of the rings, and also even expose the really faint, icy outermost F-ring.


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NASA/JPL
Pan, the ravioli-shaped moon

Even tiny things are surprising in the Saturn system. Cassini uncovered that the tiny moon Pan has actually an odd dumpling/pierogi/ravioli/empanada/name-your-favorite-stuffed-dough-treat-shaped moon. Astronomers hadn’t viewed a moon v this odd shape before.


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Goodbye, Cassini

Over the past few days, NASA take it a couple of final couple of shots that the planet. Lock beautiful however a little sad. There’s no insurance we’ll ever before send a spacecraft earlier to Saturn.


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NASA/JPL
This photo of #Saturn is make from few of the last pictures we"ll get from #Cassini, obtained Sept. 13, 2017. #CassiniInspires pic.twitter.com/OSe1Zkybey

— Jason major (
JPMajor) September 15, 2017


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Correction: An earlier version the this short article stated the Cassini mission discovered the hexagonal storm at Saturn’s north Pole. The was uncovered during the Voyager mission in the 1980s.


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