Saturn's north pole photographed by Cassini earlier this year and released yesterday.

Before it ends its mission to Saturn by intentionally hurling itself into the planet's atmosphere on Sept. 15, the Cassini spacecraft will complete a series of measurements announced today by NASA.

  • Sept. 11: Flyby of Saturn's moon Titan that will put the spacecraft into its final plunge.
  • Sept. 13 and 14: Final photos taken (including of Earth and the very last will be of the propellers) and transmitted to Earth.
  • Sept. 14 and 15: Eight onboard instruments will be sampling the upper atmosphere of Saturn during the final plunge.
  • Early morning Sept. 15: Loss of signal about 950 miles above Saturn's cloud tops. Seconds later it will melt from temperatures of 200 - 500°C.

Greatest hits since entering Saturn's orbit 13 years ago:

  • Hydrogen plumes on Enceladus, which could conceivably support life. "Enceladus has no business existing and yet there it is screaming...'I completely invalidate all of your assumptions about the solar system,'" Cassini program scientist Curt Niebur said in today's press conference.
  • Images of Titan, which Cassini confirmed has methane seas and rivers on its surface.
  • Bonus: Last week, NASA released a series of photos taken by Cassini on Aug. 20 looking out from gap between Saturn and its rings:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 18,187,396 — Total deaths: 691,352 — Total recoveries — 10,841,436Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 4,711,323 — Total deaths: 155,379 — Total recoveries: 1,513,446 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. Politics: White House will require staff to undergo randomized coronavirus testing — Pelosi says Birx "enabled" Trump on misinformation.
  4. Sports: 13 members of St. Louis Cardinals test positive, prompting MLB to cancel Tigers series — Former FDA chief says MLB outbreaks should be warning sign for schools.
  5. 1 🎥 thing: "Tenet" may be the first major film to get a global pandemic release.

In photos: Thousands evacuated as Southern California fire grows

A plane makes a retardant drop on a ridge at the Apple Fire north of Banning in Riverside County, which "doubled in size" Saturday, per KTLA. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A massive wildfire that prompted mandatory evacuations in Southern California over the weekend burned 26,450 acres and was 5% contained by Monday afternoon, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The big picture: As California remains an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., some 15 separate fires are raging across the state. About 7,800 people were under evacuation orders from the Apple Fire, about 75 miles east of Los Angeles, as hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze. CalFire said Monday that a malfunction involving a "diesel-fueled vehicle emitting burning carbon from the exhaust system" started the Apple Fire.

Twitter faces FTC fine of up to $250 million over alleged privacy violations

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket

The Federal Trade Commission has accused Twitter of using phone numbers and emails from its users to make targeted ads between 2013 and 2019, Twitter said in an SEC filing published Monday.

Why it matters: Twitter estimates that the FTC's draft complaint, which was sent a few days after its Q2 earnings report, could cost the company between $150 million and $250 million. The complaint is unrelated to the recent Twitter hack involving a bitcoin scam.