NASA has released a stunning farewell image of Saturn. The image of Saturn and its splendid rings and moons was captured by the Cassini spacecraft during the final leg of its 20- year-long epic journey in space.
The probe snapped a series of images that has been assembled into a new mosaic.
Cassini's wide-angle camera acquired 42 red, green and blue images, covering the planet and its main rings from one end to the other on September 13 this year.
Imaging scientists stitched these frames together to make a natural colour view. The scene also includes the moons Prometheus, Pandora, Janus, Epimetheus, Mimas and Enceladus.
Cassini's scientific bounty has been truly spectacular - a vast array of new results leading to new insights and surprises, from the tiniest of ring particles to the opening of new landscapes on Titan and Enceladus, to the deep interior of Saturn itself," said Robert West, Cassini's deputy imaging team leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US.
The Cassini imaging team had been planning this special farewell view of Saturn for years. For some, when the end finally came, it was a difficult goodbye.
It was all too easy to get used to receiving new images from the Saturn system on a daily basis, seeing new sights, watching things change," said Elizabeth Turtle, an imaging team associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in the US.
For others, Cassini's farewell to Saturn is reminiscent of another parting from long ago.
For 37 years, Voyager 1's last view of Saturn has been, for me, one of the most evocative images ever taken in the exploration of the solar system," said Carolyn Porco, former Voyager imaging team member and Cassini's imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in the US.
In a similar vein, this 'Farewell to Saturn' will forevermore serve as a reminder of the dramatic conclusion to that wondrous time humankind spent in intimate study of our Sun's most iconic planetary system," said Porco.
Launched in 1997, the Cassini spacecraft orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017.
The mission made numerous dramatic discoveries, including the surprising geologic activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus and liquid methane seas on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.
Cassini ended its journey with a dramatic plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15, this year, returning unique science data until it lost contact with Earth.