For the past 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn, capturing high resolution photos of our solar system's second-biggest planet, as well as its many moons and spectacular rings. As the end of the orbiter's mission approaches, it is making a series of dives through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400km) gap between Saturn and its rings before plunging into the planet's surface later this year.

As Cassini prepares for its death dive, IBTimes UK looks back at the orbiter's best shots.

The Cassini mission is a joint project between Nasa, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. It is the first in-depth, up-close study of Saturn and its system of rings and moons, which started in 1997 when the orbiter and an ESA probe were launched into space. Seven years later, they reached Saturn, and the Cassini spacecraft became the first to orbit the planet.

NASA spacecraft Cassini prepares for final mission Reuters

The mission has allowed scientists to uncover a lot about the planet and its moons. Among the most important discoveries were the identification of an ocean beneath the icy crust of Saturn's moon Enceladus and liquid methane seas on another moon, Titan.