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Cassini’s final Dione flyby pegged as one of its best

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Cassini made its final Dione flyby on August 17 and based on the images received, NASA has pegged it as one of the best flybys ever.

The spacecraft few past Dione at a distance of just 295 miles (474 kilometers) above the moon’s surface on August 17 and was able to capture some of the best photographs of Dione.

One of the photographs [embedded below] provides a two-in-one view of Dione and this includes the mission’s highest-resolution view of the Saturnian moon’s icy surface. The view, from the spacecraft’s wide-angle camera (WAC), includes an inset view, near center left, from the narrow-angle camera (NAC). The NAC view (also available here at its full resolution) shows features about 10 times smaller than the WAC view.

Cassini Dione Closest View 1

The other photograph [embedded below] was capture by Cassini looking down at a region near the day-night boundary. This view shows the region as a contrast-enhanced image in which features in shadow are illuminated by reflected light from Saturn. Territory seen here is just east of a crater named Butes, near an unnamed tectonic structure around 65 degrees north latitude, 25 degrees west longitude.

Cassini Dione Closest View 2

“I am moved, as I know everyone else is, looking at these exquisite images of Dione’s surface and crescent, and knowing that they are the last we will see of this far-off world for a very long time to come,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “Right down to the last, Cassini has faithfully delivered another extraordinary set of riches. How lucky we have been.”

Though Cassini captured and delivered some of the best shots of Dione ever, its primary goal wasn’t imaging, but was gravity science. Over the course of next few months, Cassini scientists will be studying data from the gravity science experiment and magnetosphere and plasma science instruments to look for clues about Dione’s interior structure and processes affecting its surface.