The space between the planet Saturn and its rings seems to be "relatively dust-free," NASA said Monday.
The surprising finding comes from data collected by the Cassini space orbiter, which last week made a first-ever "dive" between Saturn and its rings, according to a news release from the space agency's jet propulsion lab.
"The region between the rings and Saturn is 'the big empty,' apparently," Cassini project manager Earl Maize said in the statement.
That could be good news for Cassini, allowing the orbiter to do some of its upcoming 21 dives without using its disc-shaped antenna as a shield against dust particles, NASA said.
Using the antenna as a shield rendered Cassini unreachable during its first dive.
Cassini, launched in 1997, has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. It is scheduled to make a last plunge into Saturn in September, ending its mission.
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