NASA has released stunning video taken by the Cassini space probe as it took the first of its “grand finale” dives between Saturn and its rings.
The images were taken April 26 as Cassini made a southerly pass over Saturn. It captures the vortex on the planet’s north pole and continues to the hexagonal jet stream.
"I was surprised to see so many sharp edges along the hexagon's outer boundary and the eye-wall of the polar vortex," said Kunio Sayanagi, an associate of the Cassini imaging team based at Hampton University in Virginia, who helped produce the new movie. "Something must be keeping different latitudes from mixing to maintain those edges," he said.
During the plunge, Cassini dropped from 72,400 kilometers to 6,700 kilometers above the clouds.
The Cassini probe was launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. Some mission highlights include the possible discovery of an ocean and hydrothermal activity on the moon Enceladus as well as liquid methane seas on Titan, another icy Saturn moon.
Its mission is scheduled to end in September as the probe dives into Saturn’s thick atmosphere where it will burn up.