To Infinity and Beyond: Cornell Astronomers Bid Farewell to Cassini

After 20 years, NASA’s Cassini mission ended with the spacecraft’s spectacular plunge into Saturn. To the very end, Cassini had its antenna pointed back at Earth to relay information about the planet’s atmosphere. Over the years, many Cornell astronomers had the opportunity to work closely on the project and have plenty of memories to share. Among them is Prof. Joseph Burns, astronomy, who is a member of Cassini’s imaging teams.

“Were it not for Saturn’s fleet of 62 satellites, the cloud of dust orbiting Saturn would assume the form of a circular disk in the equatorial plane, rather than discrete rings”, Burns said. “Cassini taught us that in order to understand the behavior of planetary ring systems, we need to observe them continuously over an extended period of time.

Saturn’s Moon, Titan, Might Be Able to Support Life

Corrections Appended

The presence of life on Earth is tied in multiple ways to the presence of one substance — water. Water is the biggest component in most living organisms and has the power to leave a long-lasting impact on the environment. It is no surprise, then, that astrobiologists have long focused on understanding how exoplanets could develop the right conditions for life. What happens when dynamic cycles of activity are present without water? That is the question that first arose in the mind of one Cornell scientist.