It’s finally time to watch the end of Cassini’s epic trip around Saturn

What a way to start the day.
Cassini begins its final set of orbits around Saturn on Sunday, April 23. After 22 dives through the gap between the gas giant and its rings, Cassini will plunge into the gas giant's atmosphere and vaporize on September 15. Illustration by NASA/JPL-Caltech

What better way to start your Friday than by bearing witness to the end of one of the greatest space missions ever launched?

Starting at 7:00 a.m. Eastern daylight time (4:00 a.m. Pacific) on Friday, September 15 you can join the scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts standing vigil for Cassini by tuning in to NASA TV (just click on the video below). NASA is also providing continuous updates on Cassini’s position on its website.

NASA will lose Cassini’s signal around 7:55 a.m., after the Saturn-exploring spacecraft’s antenna points away from Earth for the last time. It’s hard to be certain about something happening 2.2 billion miles away, so times are approximate. But the vast gulf between us and Cassini means we’ll notice the loss of signal about an hour and 20 minutes after it actually occurs. By the time we hear about it, Cassini will already have disintegrated into dust, breaking apart as it enters Saturn’s atmosphere.

You won’t actually be able to watch Cassini get vaporized like a shooting star, but you will be able to watch as scientists receive word that the agent of their life’s work has disintegrated into dust on a distant planet. It’s going to get very emotional.

You can also find an alternate stream at UStream, if the sheer volume of Cassini fans manages to overwhelm the YouTube link above. If you’re planning on waking up early, you won’t be alone. We’ll be tuning in and keeping watch at our desks and on Twitter. Pour an extra-strong cup of coffee and join us.

However you watch it, keep your tissues handy. You’ll want to dry your eyes before you head to work.