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Cassini: Probe incinerates on entry to Saturn

Cassini: Probe incinerates on entry to Saturn

Science
Media playback is unsupported on your deviceThe American-led Cassini space mission to Saturn has just come to a spectacular end. Controllers had commanded the probe to destroy itself by plunging into the planet's atmosphere. It survived for just over a minute before being broken apart. Cassini had run out of fuel and Nasa had determined that the probe should not be allowed simply to wander uncontrolled among Saturn and its moons. The loss of signal from the spacecraft occurred pretty close to the prediction. Here at mission control, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the drop-off was timed at 04:55 PDT (11:55 GMT; 12:55 BST). How the last hours unfoldedNasa's Earl Maize addressed fellow controllers: "Congratulations to you all. This has been an incredible missi...
Cassini: Saturn probe turns towards its death plunge

Cassini: Saturn probe turns towards its death plunge

Science
The international Cassini spacecraft at Saturn has executed the course correction that will send it to destruction at the end of the week.The probe flew within 120,000km of the giant moon Titan on Monday - an encounter that bent its trajectory just enough to put it on a collision path with the ringed planet. Nothing can now stop the death plunge in Saturn's atmosphere on Friday. Cassini will be torn to pieces as it heads down towards the clouds.Its components will melt and be dispersed through the planet's gases.Ever since it arrived at Saturn 13 years ago, the probe has used the gravity of Titan - the second biggest moon in the Solar System - to slingshot itself into different positions from which to study the planet and its stunning rings. It has been a smart strategy because Cassini wou...
Organic compounds found by Saturn moon mission

Organic compounds found by Saturn moon mission

Technology
Scientists have urged caution after finding organic compounds around Saturn's moon Enceladus.Enceladus was discovered by the British astronomer William Herschel in 1789 using what was then the largest telescope in the world, measuring 1.2m across.Almost 230 years later, the Cassini spacecraft conducted another fly-past of its southern pole, travelling through one of the mysterious cryovolcanic plumes which had been discovered to be erupting from the moon.Cassini sampled the water-rich plumes, suspected to originate from a vast liquid ocean beneath the surface of Enceladus, and discovered organic compounds - molecules which contain carbon and are essential to all known life.These compounds, including the molecule methanol, have now been detected in a much more massive quantity than previous...