After 20 years spent traveling the solar system and 13 years spent circling Saturn, the remarkable Cassini mission is coming to a bittersweet end.
On Friday, Sept. 15, mission scientists and enthusiasts will witness the self-destruction of the Cassini probe, as it burns up and disintegrates in the atmosphere of the ringed planet that it observed over the course of three total missions. [Cassini’s Saturn Crash: How to Watch Its ‘Grand Finale’]
Cassini has gathered new insights and imagery from Saturn, a planet that has long fascinated people’s imaginations. To gain a solid understanding of the ways in which this distant spacecraft has contributed to the scientific understanding of Saturn and its more than 60 moons, it’s worthwhile look at the numbers:
453,048: The number of images Cassini has taken. One of the many instruments on board the Cassini spacecraft is the Imaging Science Subsystem camera, which uses red, green and blue spectral filters to capture the marvels of the Saturn system. The colors are later combined to make a composite image. Cassini also carries various spectrometers and radar instruments that allowed the probe to observe features that were obstructed, such as the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan, which was otherwise hidden underneath the clouds.
635: The amount of data, in gigabytes, that Cassini has collected. The complex scientific data Cassini has sent back to mission scientists on Earth includes electromagnetic spectrum observations, information on dust particles and a collection of Saturn’s plasma characteristics.
890 million: The average distance in miles between the Earth and Saturn. It translates to roughly 1.43 billion kilometers.
83: Total minutes it will take the light from…