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After completing its most recent flyby of Enceladus, Cassini made a pass by Dione — its final visit of the icy moon for the next three years. Coming within 5,000 miles (8000 km) of Dione on May 2, Cassini captured some fantastic images of the moon’s heavily-cratered and frozen surface. Here’s just a few of the raw images that arrived back here on Earth earlier today:
698 miles (1123 km) in diameter, Dione orbits Saturn at about the same distance that the Moon orbits Earth. Its composition is two-thirds water ice, which at the incredibly cold temperatures found around Saturn behaves like rock does here on Earth.
Cassini won’t visit Dione so closely again until June 2015, after spending three years angled high out of the equatorial plane while it studies Saturn’s rings and polar regions.
As Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team Leader said today, “This is exploration at its finest. It won’t continue forever. So, enjoy it while it lasts!”
See more on the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) site here.
Image credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute