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Sci-Tech

NASA spacecraft's final full Saturn view is a masterpiece

Just days before its destruction, Cassini took 42 images that have been used to create one last stunning mosaic of all of Saturn and its rings.

This is Cassini's last full mosaic view of Saturn. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini's very last image before it died in Saturn's atmosphere on Sept. 15 was a hazy, gray close-up of part of the planet. Now, NASA has released the spacecraft's last complete look at Saturn and it's enough to melt your mind. 

The mosaic, released Tuesday, is an instant classic. Scientists combined 42 images for the natural-color mosaic showing a sweeping view of Saturn and its rings. What's less obvious are six moons: Prometheus, Enceladus, Janus, Epimetheus, Pandora and Mimas (the famous "Death Star moon"). 

NASA helpfully provided an annotated version showing the locations of the moons:

NASA annotated this version of the mosaic to highlight the moons.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini snapped the images used for the mosaic two days before its scheduled plunge to its doom. 

NASA calls the final image "Farewell to Saturn" and used its release to reminiscence about Cassini's accomplishments during the 13 years it spent studying the planet and its many moons.

"Cassini's scientific bounty has been truly spectacular -- a vast array of new results leading to new insights and surprises, from the tiniest of ring particles to the opening of new landscapes on Titan and Enceladus, to the deep interior of Saturn itself," said Robert West, Cassini's deputy imaging team leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.