A conversation from earlier today:
Me: Yeah, Cassini is gonna be going through Saturn’s rings today. Gonna be tricky, maneuvering through all the debris.
Co-worker: Well, why didn’t they just fly above or below it, then?
Yeah, that’d be a great way to gather data about the rings. :rolleyes:
Heh, the real reason that they had to fly through the rings is because the rings are tilted to the path of the spacecraft.
I’m they would have rather avoided the rings , since the risk of damage is high, but the orbital mechanics pretty much required the pass.
So what does the orbit look like now? I’m guessing it’s a parabola, and will eventually be circularized outside the ring system? I read that the insertion point was the closest Cassini will get to the rings.
More of an elongated ellipse. They’re using the planet to reduce Cassini’s velocity in a reverse slingshot manuver, so they have to get close.
There’s lots of good information, and pix, at Cassini-Huygens Home.
Headline: Cassini probes Saturn; next stop: Uranus.
That is one double-barreled bastard of a cool orbital maneuver.