The Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the galaxy with a death dive into Saturn's atmosphere on Sept. 15, 2017. The probe launched in 1997 and delivered unprecedented looks at the ringed planet and its many moons during its mission lifespan. These images represent some of Cassini's finest views from space.
Sunrise on Saturn looks a bit different than it does on Earth. Cassini watched dawn rise on the gas giant in this image from mid-2014. The light falls artfully on Saturn's stormy atmosphere and bands of clouds.
First published May 2. Update, Sept. 13 at 7 a.m. PT: Added eight images at the end. Update, Sept. 15 at 9:05 a.m. PT: Added final image and information on the mission's end.
You won't find Darth Vader hanging out on Mimas, but you will notice its round shape and large impact crater that matches the superlaser dish on the sci-fi craft. Cassini captured this image of Mimas in October 2016.
A graceful Cassini image from early 2017 shows Saturn's face and rings lit up by the sun. NASA explains what we're seeing with the rings: "From this vantage point just beneath the ring plane, the dense B ring becomes dark and essentially opaque, letting almost no light pass through. But some light reflected by the planet passes through the less dense A ring, which appears above the B ring in this photo."
Before Cassini entered its 2017 Grand Finale dives between Saturn and its rings, it took a moment to look back at its long-distant home planet. It might be hard to spot, but look for the bright point of light near the center of the image and you will find Earth seen from 870 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away.
Dione's craggy, crater-filled surface is on full display in this Cassini close-up from mid-2015. The Saturn moon is just under 700 miles (1,125 kilometers) in diameter. The white line standing out above the moon's surface is Saturn's rings in the distance.
A 2014 Cassini image captured a rare view of three of Saturn's moons. This dramatic look shows the planet's rings along with Tethys, Hyperion and Prometheus. Tethys is one of Saturn's largest moons. Heavily cratered Hyperion appears above and to the left of Tethys and small, potato-shaped Prometheus peeks out underneath the bottom edge of the rings.
Titan looks colorful in this composite infrared image assembled from Cassini shots taken during a November 2015 flyby. Scientists can see through the moon's hazy atmosphere and inspect surface details through the use of near-infrared wavelengths. Titan is Saturn's largest moon.
Saturn's rings are made up of rocks, ice and dust. NASA released a series of close-up Cassini images of those fascinating formations in early 2017. This particular image shows the planet's A ring and was captured during the spacecraft's ring-grazing orbits prior to the start of its Grand Finale dives between the planet and the rings.
Saturn poses with its largest moon in this picturesque Cassini shot from May 2015. At 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers) across, Titan is the ringed planet's largest moon. Cassini was 1.4 million miles (2.2 million kilometers) from Saturn when it took the image.
NASA nicknamed this spinning vortex of a storm seen on Saturn's north pole "The Rose" based on its resemblance to the Earth flower. The Cassini image is shown in false-color to highlight the storm's whirling cloud patterns.
Cassini settled into a new orbit pattern in December 2016 ahead of its Grand Finale of final dives around the planet in 2017. That new orbit gave the spacecraft an excellent view of the geometric cloudy storm patterns found on the planet's north pole.
Saturn's dainty moon Pan is just 17 miles (28 kilometers) across. It's cute, and it also looks like a piece of ravioli pasta due to its irregular shape. Cassini sent back some images of the unusual moon in early 2017. It's not the only Saturn moon that looks like Earth food. The moon Prometheus resembles a potato.
We're used to seeing a single crescent moon in Earth's night sky, but the view from around Saturn can be very different. Saturn hosts dozens of moons. Cassini saw this graceful image of three crescent moons in 2015. The moons are Titan (Saturn's largest), Rhea and Mimas.
This Cassini image shows a large, turbulent storm raging on Saturn's south pole. At 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) across, the storm is two-thirds Earth's diameter. Though released in early 2016, the image is a composite of two images taken in July 2008.
Saturn sure has some weird-looking moons, including tiny Atlas, which even NASA admits looks like a UFO. A center bulge lends it the unique flying-saucer shape. Atlas is just 19 miles (30 kilometers) across. Cassini snapped this image in April 2017.
Earth doesn't have an exclusive on auroras. This NASA animation, released in July 2017, comes from a series of Cassini images and shows what an aurora looks like on Saturn. The aurora has a ghostly cloud-like appearance in this GIF.
Saturn's rings look huge in comparison to the moon Mimas (seen just below the rings at the bottom). Despite their hulking appearance, NASA says the rings are actually very thin, "no thicker than the height of a house." Cassini captured this image in July 2016.
You are seeing double. This image shows two different Cassini views of Saturn's moon Titan. The image on the left shows Titan in natural color while the image on the right is in false color, which makes the moon's clouds stand out. Cassini captured these looks on March 21, 2017.
A big part of Cassini's 2017 grand finale farewell tour involved shooting the gap between Saturn and its rings. NASA released a movie showing the spacecraft's view of the rings during one of these dramatic dives. The GIF consists of 21 images captured in late August.
Cassini got a good look at Saturn's moon Enceladus and its heavily cratered northern side in this image taken in late 2016. The southern end of Enceladus features smoother terrain thanks to geologic activity.
Behold Cassini's highest resolution color image of a portion of Saturn's B Ring. NASA released this fascinating look at the ring in early September. The composite image features ringlets and bands of varying sizes. The fatter bands near the edge are up to 300 miles (500 kilometers) wide.
NASA shared two versions of Cassini's final image taken before the spacecraft destroyed itself in Saturn's atmosphere on Sept. 15. One is monochrome and the other is in natural color. This last look shows Saturn from a distance of 394,000 miles (634,000 kilometers) away.