July 24, 2017
This mosaic of 30 images was captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on June 29, 2017, as it raced toward the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 close passes over Saturn that comprise the mission's final phase, called the Grand Finale.
For the first frame of the mosaic, Cassini’s camera was pointed toward a location at approximately 80 degrees north latitude, as the spacecraft was flying 16,000 miles (26,000 kilometers) above the top of the clouds at 45 degrees north latitude. When the last frame was captured, the orbiter was 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) above 30 degrees north latitude and looking straight down at the planet.
The images in this sequence were captured in near-infrared wavelengths using the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera. The near-infrared channel centered at 752 nanometers was chosen for this imaging sequence because it is most sensitive to Saturn’s cloud-top altitudes. The original versions of these images, as sent by the spacecraft, have a size of 512 by 512 pixels. The small image size was chosen in order to allow the camera to take images quickly as Cassini sped over Saturn.
These images of the planet's curved surface were projected onto a flat plane before being combined into a mosaic. Each image was mapped in stereographic projection centered at 55 degrees north latitude.
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.