Cassini's first dive, finds "The Big Empty"

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An artists impression of the Cassini spacecraft crossing the ring plane.
The first dive between Saturn and its rings finds very little debris (image credit: NASA).

The Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its first dive between the planet Saturn and its rings, something no other craft had done before. Before attempting the dive, scientists weren't sure exactly how much dust/debris would exist in this gap. As a precaution, the orbital scientists oriented Cassini so that its radio antennae pointed in the direction of its trajectory to help protect some of its more sensitive instruments. While performing the dive, mission scientists performed measurements to see just how dusty the environment between the rings was, and it turns out... it's very empty! Mission scientists converted the data into audio tracks to listen for 'pings:' sounds made by small particles hitting the space craft. They heard very few.

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Cassini's first dive, finds "The Big Empty"
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Jesse Rogerson, PhD

As a passionate science communicator, Jesse Rogerson loves promoting science literacy to the public. He frequently represents the Canada Aviation and Space Museum on television and radio, social media, and at conferences. A trained and practicing astrophysicist, Jesse holds a PhD in observational astrophysics from York University, and publishes his research in peer-reviewed journals. Jesse enjoys riding his motorcycle, board games, and ultimate frisbee.