Cassini takes in some views

The Cassini probe has been snapping away around Saturn, shooting back some pictures of the moons Dione and Titan, getting both of them in a single swoop. The Titan flyby (flyby number 67) saw an unexpected camera reset lose the chance to grab as many images as possible, but the camera was fine by the time of Dione (second flyby), which was to be investigated as a possible source of charged particles and to determine the origin of dark material on its surface.

The probe has also been pointing at Saturn itself and got data of some lightning. The probe recorded radio bursts as well as images (from which these movies and stills come) of lightning on the ringed planet. The images show flashes of lightning some 300km wide in a storm cloud ten times larger. Lightning on Saturn is at least as powerful as on Earth, but storms are far longer lasting but far rarer.

Cassini completed its primary mission a while ago and has been conducting investigations under the auspices of the Equinox mission. That too has to expire at some time and from October 2010, the Solstice mission will begin. It is likely, due to STFC funding decisions, that the UK will not have any involvement in this historic mission.

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