Cassini has only 3 orbits and 19 days left before its heads into Saturn's atmosphere for the last time.
This is Grand Finale Orbit: 20
Third and lowest of the "Final Five" dips into Saturn's atmosphere.
Cassini has just three orbits of Saturn remaining before the mission ends.
During this orbit Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) maps Saturn’s northern hemisphere to study temperatures in the upper troposphere and the Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) creates a map of Saturn’s equatorial region. The CIRS instrument also performs its final Saturn limb observation of the mission.
The spacecraft uses its RADAR instrument in active mode to study Saturn’s atmosphere.
This is the third of five orbits in which Cassini’s elliptical orbit carries it so low that the spacecraft passes briefly through Saturn’s atmosphere. Cassini’s reaction control thrusters are at the ready to correct the spacecraft’s orientation in case Saturn’s atmosphere pushes on the spacecraft hard enough to cause any rotation. This is the deepest Cassini dips into Saturn’s atmosphere during the “Final Five” orbits.
During the period in which the spacecraft is nearest Saturn, Cassini’s Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) performs its second session directly sampling Saturn’s upper atmosphere. The instrument measures densities of different species of molecular hydrogen, helium and a variety of ions in the immediate vicinity of the spacecraft
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