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The Cassini Satellite Sent an Eerie Last Photo Before NASA Crashed It Into Saturn

After 13 years of studying Saturn and nearly 20 years since it first launched into space, NASA's Cassini satellite took a "death dive" into the upper atmosphere of the distant ringed planet and lost contact with Earth early on Friday morning. The space agency crashed the spacecraft on purpose, you see, having spent all of its rocket propellent over the many years of its "remarkable journey of exploration." Before crashing, Cassini managed to transmit one last image of the planet, showing its final resting place.

In the culmination of a mission dubbed "Cassini: The Grand Finale," operators at NASA steered the satellite right into Saturn around 6:30am ET and its last signals reached the agency's command center just before 8am ET, according to a report by CNN. 

In the hours before Cassini's fateful maneuver, its camera equipment managed to capture and transmit one last photo of Saturn.

As NASA explains, the image shows the planet's night side, but light reflected from its rings helps reveal stunning details on its surface. The rings appear to be visible towards the bottom of the image (shown above). The agency also released a colorized version of the image, taken with with red, green, and blue spectral filters (shown below).

NASA posted additional images and videos from Cassini's incredible journey on its website. Here are a handful of some of the best photos of Saturn and its moons from over the years:

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Tony Merevick is Senior News Editor at Thrillist and wonders if future generations will ever find the wreckage there someday. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.