Google Doodle celebrates Cassini's last leg on Saturn

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Google Doodle celebrates The Grand Finale of Cassini Spacecraft
Google Doodle celebrates The Grand Finale of Cassini Spacecraft

New Delhi : Google Doodle on Wednesday celebrates final phase of 20-year-old Cassini Spacecraft orbiting Saturn's Moon, Titan. 

According to NASA's website following the spacecraft, "Cassini will leap over the planet's icy rings and begin a series of 22 weekly dives between the planet and the rings" after a final close flyby of Titan.

Named after the astronomer, spacecraft Cassini was launched on October 15, 1997 and it reached Saturn’s orbit in July, 2004.

After living in space for duration of over 12 years, the mission is scheduled to end on September 15, 2017.

“We’re approaching Saturn over the northern hemisphere in advance of first #GrandFinale dive through gap between the planet and its rings,” a post on Cassini Saturn’s official twitter handle reads.

Scientists with Cassini's radar investigation will be looking this week at their final set of new radar images of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes that spread across Titan's north polar region. 

The radar team also plans to use the new data to probe the depths and compositions of some of Titan's small lakes for the first (and last) time, and look for further evidence of the evolving feature researchers have dubbed the "magic island."

"Cassini's up-close exploration of Titan is now behind us, but the rich volume of data the spacecraft has collected will fuel scientific study for decades to come," said Linda Spilker, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The flyby also put Cassini on course for its dramatic last act, known as the Grand Finale. 

As the spacecraft passed over Titan, the moon's gravity bent its path, reshaping the robotic probe's orbit slightly so that instead of passing just outside Saturn's main rings, Cassini will begin a series of 22 dives between the rings and the planet on April 26.

(with IANS inputs)