Last night, NASA's multi-billion dollar Cassini–Huygens spacecraft crashed into Saturn. It was a spectacular end to a 20-year mission that has provided invaluable information abut the ringed planet and its moons. Here's what you need to know, along with a stream to the live event.
What is the Cassini spacecraft?
Cassini, or Cassini–Huygens to give it its full title, was an unmanned robotic spacecraft consisting of an orbiter and lander. It was originally sent to Saturn all the way back in 1997, with the lander (Huygens) arriving on Saturn's moon Titan in 2005. For the past 13 years, Cassini had been making passes around the planet and its natural satellites with collected data beamed back to Earth.
The craft and mission were a joint venture between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.
What was the point of the mission?
Cassini's chief mission was to help us learn more about Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun in our Solar System. Specific objectives included determining the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behaviour of the rings of Saturn, studying the composition of the satellite surfaces and the geological history of each object and sampling the composition of Saturn's atmosphere at cloud level.
Why did Cassini crash into Saturn?
After 20 years in orbit, Cassini had almost exhausted its fuel supply. Scientists in charge of the mission made the decision to deliberately crash it into Saturn's atmosphere. Otherwise, the probe could have accidentally collided with one of Saturn's moons and caused potential contamination.
When did Cassini crash into Saturn?
At 6:37pm AEST, Cassini collected data about Saturn's atmosphere as it heads towards the planet's surface. At approximately 9:53pm AEST, the spacecraft will enter the atmosphere at speeds of 120,000 kilometres per hour. It will vaporise within minutes due to the intense conditions with no damage caused to the planet.
How can I watch the event live?
NASA will be streaming live shots from inside the Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission control during Cassini's final moments. You can tune in by clicking on the video at the top of this article.