Cassini Probe Takes Breathtaking Final Look at Saturn's Moon Dione

PHOTO: This view from NASAs Cassini spacecraft looks toward Saturns icy moon Dione, with giant Saturn and its rings in the background, just prior to the missions final close approach to the moon on August 17, 2015.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft looks toward Saturn's icy moon Dione, with giant Saturn and its rings in the background, just prior to the mission's final close approach to the moon on August 17, 2015.

NASA's Cassini space probe swooped in for its final close encounter with Dione -- one of Saturn's 62 known moons -- and took a stunning final look at the icy world.

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Taken from 295 miles away, the high-resolution shots show the pockmarked surface of the tiny moon in clear detail.

"I am moved, as I know everyone else is, looking at these exquisite images of Dione's surface and crescent, and knowing that they are the last we will see of this far-off world for a very long time to come," Carolyn Porco, who leads Cassini's imaging team, said in a statement. "Right down to the last, Cassini has faithfully delivered another extraordinary set of riches. How lucky we have been."

Saturn has 62 known moons.

Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission arrived in the Saturn system in 2004 where it has been working ever since to study the gas giant and its dozens of moons.

As Cassini prepares for its grand finale in 2017, it has only a few more flybys of Saturn's large moons on its agenda. It will make three approaches to the moon Enceladus later this year, passing as close as 30 miles from the geologically active moon's surface on Oct. 28.

PHOTO: NASAs Cassini spacecraft captured this parting view showing the rough and icy crescent of Saturns moon Dione following the spacecrafts last close flyby of the moon on Aug. 17, 2015.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this parting view showing the rough and icy crescent of Saturn's moon Dione following the spacecraft's last close flyby of the moon on Aug. 17, 2015.

The plan for 2016 includes some distant flybys of Saturn's largest moons, coming in at ranges under 30,000 miles. The space probe will also whiz by some of Saturn's smaller and irregularly shaped moons, giving scientists on Earth what could be their best ever look at the tiny moons.

The probe's mission is scheduled to end in September 2017, when it will make a fatal plunge into Saturn's atmosphere. It's set to spend its finally months diving through the area between Saturn and its famous rings.

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