Earth spotted through Saturn's rings

The image shows Saturn's A and F rings in the foreground - captured by a tiny spacecraft which is set to crash into Saturn later this year.

The incredible image, captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on April 12, shows Earth as a small speck of light in between the icy rings of Saturn.

The spacecraft made its 127th and final close approach to Titan on April 21st at 11:08pm PDT (1:08am CDT on April 22nd), passing at an altitude of about 608 miles (979 kilometers) above the moon's surface.

Scientists involved with Cassini's radar investigation will look at their last set of radar images of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes across the north polar region of Titan this week.

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NASA said the Cassini mission to Saturn is "one of the most ambitious efforts in planetary space exploration ever mounted". This week, on April 26, Cassini will initiate its Grand Finale death dive composed of 22 plunges through the gap between Saturn's rings. The Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker said that the grand finale of Cassini-Huygens is just another brand new mission because the space probe will show the biggest discoveries on its final orbit.

However, Cassini did not only make a Titan flyby. Space.com noted that the canyon, known as Ithaca Chasma, is visible in an image from Cassini, teetering between the day side and night side of the moon. NASA officials also noted in a statement that the canyon had a maximum depth of almost 2.4 miles.

The flyby placed the spacecraft on the course for the final phase of its mission called the Grand Finale, wherein the probe will eventually dive into Saturn's atmosphere and transmit data about the ringed planet's chemical composition until it loses its signal.

If all goes well, Cassini will repeat that orbit on a weekly basis until September 15, collecting samples of Saturn's atmosphere and measuring its mass and weight in the process, according to The Verge.

  • Regina Walsh