In 1997, NASA launched the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft to explore and photograph the mysterious planet Saturn. And now, 20 years later, NASA has released high-resolution photos of exactly what the unmanned spaceship was able to see.
Researchers at NASA and the European Space Agency teamed up to design Cassini-Huygens in the 1980s. Named after astronomers Giovanni Cassini and Christiaan Huygens, the spacecraft was designed to not only photograph the planet, but also to collect data from it and its 62 moons. These latest photos come as Cassini-Huygens's trip is coming to a close. It's final phase – called the Grand Finale – started in April 2017. The spacecraft is expected to make its last orbit around the planet in September 2017, transmitting a few more photos before plummeting into the planet's atmosphere below.
Eye Of The Storm
This is a storm off the top of Saturn's north pole. Researchers estimate the storm is 1,250 miles across.
The Yellow Surface
Here we can see in color the surface of Saturn, and the shadow its rings cast upon it.
A Sign Of Life?
Saturn's moon Enceladus might have an ocean on it, or at least scientists think it might. This image shows geysers around the moon's south pole, with what appears to be ice-water rivers underneath its ice shell.
A Tiny Moon And Big Rings
In the bottom left corner, you can see a small white dot. That's Saturn's moon Mimas. Compare that to the mammoth-sized Saturn, and it's easy to see why Saturn has so many moons. They're all quite small!