+

On Sept. 15, after 20 years in flight, more than 2 billion miles traveled, and a series of groundbreaking planetary orbits, Cassini will enter Saturn's atmosphere and disappear.

In the meantime, the plucky spacecraft is racing against the clock to grab a few final dramatic shots.

The images have been nothing short of astounding. On an Aug. 20 dive, one of its last, the craft captured all of Saturn's main rings as it passed by on its way toward the planet.


[rebelmouse-image 19531908 dam="1" original_size="504x504" caption="GIF by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA." expand=1]GIF by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA.

Since its first orbit in 2004, Cassini has given scientists an unprecedentedly detailed look at one of our solar system's most complex and photogenic planets.

The flybys returned striking new clues to the origin of Saturn's rings and included studies of Titan, the planet's largest moon and one the most Earth-like places in our solar system — all while taking some sweet pictures along the way.

In 2007, Cassini shot "On the Final Frontier," arguably the most iconic image of the planet ever captured.

[rebelmouse-image 19531909 dam="1" original_size="700x442" caption="Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA." expand=1]Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA.

The natural mosaic was compiled over the course of two hours. Three of Saturn's moons can be seen at approximately 2 o'clock, 4 o'clock, and 8 o'clock  (if you squint).

The craft recorded this cross-section panorama of Saturn's rings, composed of 45 different images, immediately afterward.

[rebelmouse-image 19531911 dam="1" original_size="700x85" caption="Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA." expand=1]Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA.

This 2005 photo of the planet's northern hemisphere captures it in blue, closer to the color of Uranus or Neptune than previously thought.

[rebelmouse-image 19531912 dam="1" original_size="700x556" caption="Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA." expand=1]Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA.

Over time, as the shadows from Saturn's rings moved further south, the color changed to the more-familiar light gold.

That same year, Cassini photographed a massive storm in the planet's southern hemisphere, dubbed the Dragon Storm.

[rebelmouse-image 19531913 dam="1" original_size="700x700" caption="Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA." expand=1]Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA.

Radio bursts detected by the craft led researchers to believe they were witnessing a giant electricity-generating thunderstorm.

Five years later, Cassini captured images of yet another storm, one of the most violent ever recorded in the solar system.

[rebelmouse-image 19531915 dam="1" original_size="700x700" caption="Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA." expand=1]Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA.

Storms on Saturn, the craft confirmed, are both infrequent and powerful. Disturbances as intense as the 2010 squall above only occur roughly every 30 years.

Cassini documented the movement of methane clouds on Titan, indicating that seasons change on Saturn's largest moon.

[rebelmouse-image 19531916 dam="1" original_size="700x700" caption="Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA." expand=1]Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA.

In several flybys of Titan between 2007 and 2014, the craft tracked the appearance of a "magic island" floating in a methane and ethane sea on the moon's surface.

[rebelmouse-image 19531917 dam="1" original_size="700x230" caption="Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA." expand=1]Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA.

Researchers believe the variation in the feature's size could also be due to seasonal change.

To kick off its farewell tour, what its operators are calling its "grand finale," Cassini captured one of its best photos — a stunning image of Saturn's polar vortex bathed in sunlight.

[rebelmouse-image 19531918 dam="1" original_size="700x700" caption="Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA." expand=1]Photo by Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA.

The photo was taken just before the high point of Saturn's northern hemisphere summer, after which the region will slowly descend into darkness that will last years.

Like its mythological namesake, Saturn inevitably devours its children — and, apparently, its most dedicated photographers.  

Nevertheless, when Cassini goes dark, it will do so having forever transformed humanity's understanding of its galactic neighborhood.

Thanks to its tenacity and the countless man-hours required to see it on its way, it leaves behind a universe that feels just a little bit smaller.

Godspeed, lil' hero.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

The Onion filed a Supreme Court brief. It's both hilariously serious and seriously hilarious.

Who else could call the judiciary 'total Latin dorks' while making a legitimate point?

The Onion's Supreme Court brief uses parody to defend parody.

Political satire and parody have been around for at least 2,400 years, as ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes satirized the way Athenian leaders conducted the Peloponnesian War and parodied the dramatic styles of his contemporaries, Aeschylus and Euripides.

Satire and parody are used to poke fun and highlight issues, using mimicry and sarcasm to create comedic biting commentary. No modern outlet has been more prolific on this front than The Onion, and the popular satirical news site is defending parody as a vital free speech issue in a legal filing with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The filing is, as one might expect from The Onion, as brilliantly hilarious as it is serious, using the same satirical style it's defending in the crafting of the brief itself.

Keep ReadingShow less

She's enjoying the big benefits of some simple life hacks.

James Clear’s landmark book “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. The book is incredibly popular because it has a simple message that can help everyone. We can develop habits that increase our productivity and success by making small changes to our daily routines.

"It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis,” James Clear writes. “It is only when looking back 2 or 5 or 10 years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”

His work proves that we don’t need to move mountains to improve ourselves, just get 1% better every day.

Most of us are reluctant to change because breaking old habits and starting new ones can be hard. However, there are a lot of incredibly easy habits we can develop that can add up to monumental changes.

Keep ReadingShow less