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These images of Cassini's final moments are breathtaking

The space probe lost contact with Earth at around 12:55pm UK time.

The Cassini space mission has come to its highly-anticipated end after 13 years circling Saturn, and Nasa has released images of its final journey.

The spacecraft, which launched in 1997 and arrived at the ringed planet in 2004, took its final plunge through Saturn’s atmosphere at 77,000mph.

Here is an artist’s impression of the probe breaking down into a fiery meteor as it zooms through the atmosphere.

Cassini artist's impression
(Nasa/JPL-Caltech)

Moments before breaking down, the probe’s antenna lost contact with Earth, but not before it could transmit data about Saturn’s gases.

This is one of the last pictures sent by Cassini on September 13. It shows Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, setting behind the planet.

Enceladus, captured by Cassini)
(Nasa/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Take a look at this artist’s impression of Cassini hovering above Saturn’s northern hemisphere.

(Nasa)

Meanwhile on Earth, Nasa’s Cassini operations team were pictured hugging each other as they said a bittersweet goodbye to the groundbreaking mission.

Earl Maize, programme manager for Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and Julie Webster, spacecraft operations team manager for the Cassini mission at Saturn along with the Cassini team(Nasa/Joel Kowsky)
Engineer Mar Vaquero monitors the status of Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft as it enters the atmosphere of Saturn (Jae C Hong/AP)
Cassini team members embrace after the spacecraft was deliberately plunged (Joel Kowsky/AP)

Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab, said: “Things never will be quite the same for those of us on the Cassini team now that the spacecraft is no longer flying.

“But we take comfort knowing that every time we look up at Saturn in the night sky, part of Cassini will be there, too.”

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