The Cassini mission is, quite possibly, one of the most breathtaking exploratory missions humanity has ever undertaken. For over a decade (almost 11 years now), the Cassini-Huygens Probe has been beaming us pictures of one of the largest planets in our solar system—the great gas giant, Saturn. Although Saturn is just the second largest planet in our solar system, coming in just after Jupiter, its intricate ring system is without compare.
These rocky spheres of dust and debris are the leftover remains from the planet’s formation. They stretch some 175,000 miles (282,000 km) across our solar system For comparison, our own planet is just 7,918 miles (12,742 km) in diameter. Thus, these enormous rings dwarf our own planet, surrounding Saturn like a majestic halo.
However, Saturn is known for more than just its rings. It 62 moons are some of the most astronomically fascinating (and significant) objects we’ve discovered. There is Mimas, which (thanks to a number of notable impact events) looks like the Death Star from Star Wars. Then there is Titan, which has glorious lakes of liquid methane. Enceladus, which is one of the most likely candidates for alien life in our solar system. And on and on. Ultimately, this is just the beginning of Saturn’s exotic moons.
Over the years, Cassini has opened our eyes to these far flung worlds, acquired an impressive collection of images along the way.
Sadly, the end of this iconic mission is neigh. Cassini-Huygens will soon explore Saturn from closer than ever before, diving deep into the atmosphere, where it will find its eternal resting place. Of course, its legacy will remain long after its physical form is gone.
With this is mind, here is a look at some of the most impressive and memorable images from Cassini.