+
upworthy
Heroes

Cassini is crashing into Saturn. The final photos are nothing short of astounding.

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.

Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

A woman with a disability gets real about dating and sex. She's funny and honest.

Her candor is delightful, her message is important, and her jokes are great

Photo courtesy of Danielle Sheypuk.

Models can be different and still amazing.


"So just recently I went out on a Match.com date, and it was fantastic," begins Dr. Danielle Sheypuk in her TEDx Talk.

If you've ever been on a bunch of Match.com dates, that opening line might make you do a double take. How does one get so lucky?!

Keep ReadingShow less

Howie Hua shares helpful math tips and tricks on social media.

Math is weird.

On the one hand, it's consistent—the solutions to basic math problems are the same in every country in the world. On the other hand, there are multiple strategies to get to those solutions, and it seems like people are still coming up with new ones (much to the chagrin of parents whose kids need help with homework using methods they've never learned).

Math professor Howie Hua shares math strategies that make math easier on social media, and his videos are fascinating. Hua, who teaches math to future elementary school teachers at Fresno State, demonstrates all kinds of mental math tricks that feel like magic when you try them.

Keep ReadingShow less


We all know that Americans pay more for healthcare than every other country in the world. But how much more?

According an American expatriate who shared the story of his ER visit in a Taiwanese hospital, Americans are being taken to the cleaners when we go to the doctor. We live in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, but where an emergency trip to the hospital can easily bankrupt someone.

Kevin Bozeat had that fact in mind when he fell ill while living in Taiwan and needed to go to the hospital. He didn't have insurance and he had no idea how much it was going to cost him. He shared the experience in a now-viral Facebook post he called "The Horrors of Socialized Medicine: A first hand experience."

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Rich Smith on Unsplash

Interviewee's case of mistaken identity is pure gold.

We've all been there at some point or another, nervously waiting for a big job interview hoping you don't sweat through your good shirt. Interviews are stressful but there's likely no job interview more stressful than the one Guy Goma went on in 2006 for the BBC, when he was mistaken for an expert for a news segment. The person they were supposed to interview for the news segment was Guy Kewney, an actual music industry expert. But with cameras rolling and questions being asked, Goma took a deep breath and answered the newscaster.

Keep ReadingShow less

Finally, someone explains why we all need subtitles

It seems everyone needs subtitles nowadays in order to "hear" the television. This is something that has become more common over the past decade and it's caused people to question if their hearing is going bad or if perhaps actors have gotten lazy with enunciation.

So if you've been wondering if it's just you who needs subtitles in order to watch the latest marathon-worthy show, worry no more. Vox video producer Edward Vega interviewed dialogue editor Austin Olivia Kendrick to get to the bottom of why we can't seem to make out what the actors are saying anymore. It turns out it's technology's fault, and to get to how we got here, Vega and Kendrick took us back in time.

They first explained that way back when movies were first moving from silent film to spoken dialogue, actors had to enunciate and project loudly while speaking directly into a large microphone. If they spoke and moved like actors do today, it would sound almost as if someone were giving a drive-by soliloquy while circling the block. You'd only hear every other sentence or two.

Keep ReadingShow less