NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has taken a trip through Saturn’s rings for the first time – and has been back in touch with Earth.
The probe has sent images through space of its journey to within 3,000 kilometres of the planet’s clouds and within 300 kilometres of its innermost ring – the closest a probe has ever been.
Scientists say they show part of a massive hurricane on Saturn’s surface as well as other features including a strange six-sided cloud pattern first observed over 30 years ago.
The probe is coming to the end of a 20-year mission, for 13 of which it’s been exploring the planet.
It is due to make 21 more close encounters between Saturn and its rings, to learn about how they formed and what lies below the clouds.
All that before a final plunge in September when
Cassini will destroy itself by flying directly into Saturn’s atmosphere.
CassiniSaturn</a> puts the “nominal” in PHENOMENAL: First <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GrandFinale?src=hash">#GrandFinale</a> pass was a success & spacecraft is healthy 🛰👍<a href="https://t.co/bCZesFmR5Y">https://t.co/bCZesFmR5Y</a> <a href="https://t.co/3aSRvgXtXR">pic.twitter.com/3aSRvgXtXR</a></p>— NASA JPL (NASAJPL) April 27, 2017