LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has snapped never-before-seen images of Saturn showing the planet from perspectives above and below its ring system, the national space agency said on Thursday.
The images were taken in recent weeks by the probe, which blasted off on a mission to study the planet and its bands a decade ago.
Over the last two months, the spacecraft has climbed to higher and higher inclinations, providing its cameras with glimpses of the planet and rings that have excited scientists.
“Finally, here are the views that we’ve waited years for,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
“Sailing high above Saturn and seeing the rings spread out beneath us like a giant, copper medallion is like exploring an alien world we’ve never seen before. ... It’s so utterly breath-taking, it almost gives you vertigo.”
The images released on Thursday included a video sequence showing the rings as they appeared to Cassini while it sped from south to north, rapidly crossing the ring plane.
The spacecraft was launched on October 15, 1997 and entered into orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004. The mission is a cooperative project between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.