Cassini zooms past Dione; sends out fresh images

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a close flyby of Saturn’s moon Dione on June 16, coming within 321 miles (516 kilometers) of the moon’s surface and has sent back some stunning images of Saturn’s natural satellite.

During the flyby, Cassini’s cameras and spectrometers observed terrain that includes “Eurotas Chasmata,” a region first observed 35 years ago by NASA’s Voyager mission as bright, wispy streaks.

As per the plans Cassini would have tried to detect and determine the composition of any fine particles being emitted from Dione, which could indicate low-level geologic activity. The results haven’t been revealed yet and it will be sometime before we get to see any.

The latest encounter was fourth targeted encounter with Dione of Cassini’s long mission. Though the recent flyby was a close one, Cassini’s closest-ever flyby of Dione was in December 2011, at a distance of 60 miles (100 kilometers). The spacecraft is slated for another fly past Dione on August 17, swooping within 295 miles (474 kilometers) of the surface.

As expected, mission controllers have started receiving images of Dione from Cassine and quite a few have been released as well.

In late 2015, the spacecraft will depart Saturn’s equatorial plane — where moon flybys occur most frequently — to begin a year-long setup of the mission’s daring final year. For its grand finale, Cassini will repeatedly dive through the space between Saturn and its rings.