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Saturn's Strangest Sights, As Captured By A Doomed Spacecraft

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET Sept. 14

The Cassini spacecraft's final moments are a few hours away. Early Friday morning, it will slam itself into Saturn's atmosphere.

Cassini is a victim of its own success. It astonished scientists by finding conditions potentially suitable for life beneath the surface of one of Saturn's icy moons, Enceladus.

When Cassini runs out of fuel it could accidentally crash into this pristine world, spreading earthly contamination. So researchers decided that the spacecraft must be destroyed.

It's a dramatic end to an impressive career. For over a decade, Cassini has orbited around Saturn 294 times, collected more than 600 GB of data, visited over a dozen moons and discovered at least seven new ones. It has sent over 400,000 images back home.

Skunk Bear, NPR's science video channel, has stitched together thousands of those photos to showcase some beautiful (and often weird) scenes from our solar system.


Folllow more intriguing science videos by Skunk Bear on YouTube and Facebook.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ryan Kellman is a producer and visual reporter for NPR's science desk. Kellman joined the desk in 2014. In his first months on the job, he worked on NPR's Peabody Award-winning coverage of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He has won several other notable awards for his work: He is a Fulbright Grant recipient, he has received a John Collier Award in Documentary Photography, and he has several first place wins in the WHNPA's Eyes of History Awards. He holds a master's degree from Ohio University's School of Visual Communication and a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute.