FACT CHECK: Did NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Take This Picture Of Saturn?

Trevor Schakohl | Legal Reporter

A post shared on Facebook appears to show an image of Saturn taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

Verdict: False

The image is actually an artist’s illustration of Cassini orbiting Saturn.

Fact Check:

Launched in 1997, the Cassini spacecraft orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. Its European Space Agency probe, Huygens, landed on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005 and began transmitting scientific data back to Earth. The Cassini spacecraft itself took more than 453,000 images of Saturn and other celestial bodies during its roughly 20-year mission.

The Facebook post falsely alleges that an image appearing to show Saturn and its rings was taken by the Cassini spacecraft, with the caption saying, “NASA’s Cassini probe was a nuclear-powered spacecraft that orbited Saturn for 13 years. It sent back hundreds of thousands of images. This is just one of them.”

However, the Cassini spacecraft did not produce the image in the Facebook post. The picture, found through a reverse image search, is actually an artist’s depiction of Cassini making one of its last orbital trips. NASA published the illustration in April 2017, several months before the Cassini burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere.

“This artist’s concept shows an over-the-shoulder view of Cassini making one of its Grand Finale dives over Saturn,” reads NASA’s caption for the image. (RELATED: Did NASA Spend More Than $165 Million To Develop Pens That Work In Space?)

The first spacecraft to fly by Saturn was NASA’s Pioneer 11 probe. It flew by the ringed planet in 1979 and is on a trajectory that will take it outside the solar system, according to NASA.

Trevor Schakohl

Legal Reporter
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