17 August 2015 News

Cassini and Saturn’s moon Dione: so long and thanks for all the pics

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will be buzzing Saturn’s mysterious moon Dione one last time today.

This final approach to Dione could be significant – after all, scientists have been struggling to figure out whether or not Dione has geological activity (and even ice volcanoes) for some time.

Since scientists are now almost entirely sure that there must be geological activity on Pluto, geological activity on Dione looms as a bigger possibility than before. “But we’ve never found the smoking gun,” Cassini science team member Bonnie Burratti told Space.com.

The Cassini mission is meanwhile winding down. The last approach to Dione is first on the list of many “lasts.” The spacecraft, specifically launched to study Saturn and everything in Saturn’s immediate vicinity, has been in orbit for a decade and is soon set to run out of fuel.

Cassini is ultimately set to go out in style –by plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere and burning up.

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