I was scrolling through Twitter on Sunday when an image of Saturn's rings crashing through a cloudy atmosphere caught my eye. The image's caption said it was "Cassini's last image before entering Saturn's atmosphere and burning up."
That a place like this existed in the universe and humans had sent a camera hundreds of millions of miles to take a photo of it was fantastic, so I hit the retweet button despite the fact that I had no idea who "Bill Wanatosky 8(a)" was or if he could be trusted to disseminate accurate NASA photography. Well it turns out @DCMDVABroker is not a faithful Tweeter and duped me and 10,000 other Twitter accounts into spreading his fake news.
Cassini's actual final photos look nothing like that forgery but are equally alluring and are made even more impressive by the fact that they are actually real. Look at this one, with Saturn's rings grouped into bands like different songs on a spinning record.
Or this one, which is blurry but no less spectacular when you realize this is a photograph of Titan, the greatest moon in our solar system. Titan is the only place other than earth that is "known to possess surface lakes and seas," which are filled with liquid methane because of the massive moon's frigid temperatures (-292 Fahrenheit).
Titan's atmosphere is twice as thick as Earth's, which makes it tough for scientists to study the surface from our planet. Cassini's 20-year mission to Saturn increased our understanding of this mysterious and cold moon, especially when it took these final images as it plummeted into Saturn's atmosphere in September of last year. So this forgery image from @DCMDVABRoker isn't even timely fake news.
I have yet to undo my retweet of this image, because I'm not entirely sure what to do. What should I do, Slog?