'Grand Finale' at Saturn Begins: Cassini Spacecraft's 1st Ring Dive in Pictures

Cassini's 'Grand Finale'


On April 26, 2017, NASA's Cassini spacecraft swooped through the space between Saturn and its rings. Click through this slideshow to see the first photos from the epic encounter. [Full Story]

Pictured here: An artist's impression of Cassini's "Grand Finale" orbits.

Up first: Giant hurricane on Saturn

'Giant Hurricane' on Saturn

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

As Cassini captured the closest views of Saturn yet, it spotted a swirling storm in the planet's atmosphere that NASA calls a "giant hurricane." [Read more]

Up next: Saturn's cloudy streaks

Saturn's Cloudy Streaks

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

This raw image from Cassini's close swoop shows streaked features and wispy clouds in Saturn's atmosphere. It is the closest view of Saturn that any spacecraft has ever achieved.[Cassini Spacecraft's Ring Dive Yields Saturn Surprises]

Up next: Saturn's Swirly Atmosphere

Saturn's Swirly Atmosphere

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

In this raw, close-up image from Cassini's epic plunge on April 26, Saturn's atmosphere is filled with puffy, popcorn-shaped clouds. [Video: Closest Saturn Pics Yet Snapped During Daring Cassini Dive]

Up next: Mission Control

Mission Control


In the mission control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Cassini team members cheered as they received first signal from the spacecraft after it plunged between Saturn and its rings. [Video: Mission Control Celebrates]

Up next: Cassini's All-Stars

Cassini's All-Stars


Cassini team gathered in the Von Karman Auditorium at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as they waited for a signal from the spacecraft.

Up next: Lucky peanuts

Lucky Peanuts


As the crowd awaited a signal from the Cassini spacecraft during its epic dive inside Saturn's rings, Cassini scientist Linda Spilker gave a talk about NASA's "lucky peanuts" tradition at a gathering for mission team members. [Video: Cassini Spacecraft's Grand Finale Dives: Risk vs. Reward Explained by NASA]

Up next: Cassini Virtual Singers

Cassini Virtual Singers


The Cassini Virtual Singers, a group of musically inclined Cassini scientists, performed spaced-out parodies of popular tunes while NASA waited to hear from the Cassini spacecraft.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.