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See Cassini's heart-stirring final look at Saturn's moon Dione

The Cassini spacecraft says its goodbyes to icy Dione in stunning style with some of the best images of the moon ever taken.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

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Cassini sees a full profile of Dione. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

There are over 50 known moons in orbit around ringed planet Saturn. One of them in particular got to step into NASA's spotlight for several moments of glory this year as the Cassini spacecraft turned its camera eyes to Dione.

Dione is fairly dainty at just 698 miles in diameter. It is named for a Greek goddess who was said to be the mother of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The moon is not as warm and inviting as that name might lead you to believe. It has a craggy, cratered and icy surface that shows up beautifully in some of the Cassini close-ups.

Saturn's moon Dione seen in glorious Cassini images (pictures)

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Cassini captured a final series of images during a close flyby on August 17 where it came to within just 295 miles (474 kilometers) of the surface. They show craters, chasms and surface fractures along with otherworldly faraway images that put the moon in perspective with Saturn's massive rings.

This is the last time Cassini will be focused on Dione.

"I am moved, as I know everyone else is, looking at these exquisite images of Dione's surface and crescent, and knowing that they are the last we will see of this far-off world for a very long time to come," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead.

Cassini's flyby wasn't just about gathering pretty pictures. Scientists hope to learn more about Dione's interior structure and geologic processes through studying the images.

Cassini, which launched back in 1997 for its grand Saturn mission, isn't done yet. NASA is sending the spacecraft onward to study the moon Enceladus, one of the largest in orbit there. After that, it will investigate a handful of Saturn's other satellites, including some of the planet's small, odd-shaped moons. The mission is scheduled to wrap up in late 2017.