APOD: Cassini Approaches Saturn
Credit & Copyright: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA, S. Van Vuuren et al.;
Music: Adagio for Strings (NY Philharmonic)
Explanation: What would it look like to approach Saturn in a spaceship? One doesn’t have to just imagine — the Cassini spacecraft did just this in 2004, recording thousands of images along the way, and thousands more since entering orbit. Recently, some of these images have been digitally tweaked, cropped, and compiled into the above inspiring video which is part of a larger developing IMAX movie project named Outside In. In the last sequence, Saturn looms increasingly large on approach as cloudy Titan swoops below. With Saturn whirling around in the background, Cassini is next depicted flying over Mimas, with large Herschel Crater clearly visible. Saturn’s majestic rings then take over the show as Cassini crosses Saturn’s thin ring plane. Dark shadows of the ring appear on Saturn itself. Finally, the enigmatic ice-geyser moon Enceladus appears in the distance and then is approached just as the video clip ends.