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See Cassini's last image before it died at Saturn

Cassini's farewell image is a fitting tribute to the pioneering spacecraft's legacy of exploration at Saturn.

Cassini's last image in monochrome and natural-color views.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini showed us worlds beyond our own. The NASA spacecraft's cameras saw propellers in the rings of Saturn, a snowman on an icy moon and their own home planet from far, far away. Early on Friday, Cassini plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, but it sent back one final image before its destruction. 

The view shows us Saturn looming ahead as Cassini eyes its ending. "It looks toward the planet's night side, lit by reflected light from the rings, and shows the location at which the spacecraft would enter the planet's atmosphere hours later," says NASA. The space agency released both monochrome and natural-color versions of the image. 

Cassini snapped its last image from a distance of 394,000 miles (634,000 kilometers) away. The spacecraft continued to send back data even as it made its final approach into the ringed planet after spending nearly 20 years in space.  

Several hours before Cassini burned up, its infrared imaging instrument pointed down at Saturn and took a picture of the spot where it was headed. NASA now believes the circled area in the image below is where the spacecraft finally became part of the planet it studied for so long.

The circle shows where NASA believes Cassini burned up in Saturn's atmosphere.

Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

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