NEW ORLEANS – On April 26th, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft entered its first dive between Saturn and its rings and now we are getting the first ever images back from such a close distance to the gas giant and while the raw images taken from the separate image spectrum appear black and white, when processed and combined, they provide a glimpse of the planet as seen from the naked eye, up close and personal.
The images, separately processed by astroparticle physicist Sophia Nasr and graphics designer Jason Major, were created using Photoshop to combine three separate images that were captured using Red, Green, and Blue filters on the spacecraft. The resulting images show a massive, blue hurricane-like storm swirling on Saturn’s north pole, surrounded by yellow clouds.
While this was the first dive between the rings and the planet, it won’t be the last. Cassini’s second dive happened on Tuesday, May 2 and a total of 22 dives will occur before the trajectory of the spacecraft will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere and ultimately destroy it on September 15, 2017. The gap itself is about 1,500 miles wide and on its first dive, Cassini came within 1,900 miles of the planet’s cloud tops and within 200 miles of the innermost rings at a relative speed of 77,000 miles per hour.
If you’d like to see the unprocessed images in RAW black and white, you can head over to the JPL website. NASA has uploaded the imagery from the first flyby in late April and will continue to update and upload imagery as Cassini continues to make its dives through the gap until September.