NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this parting view showing the rough and icy crescent of Saturn's moon Dione following the spacecraft's last close flyby of the moon on Aug. 17, 2015. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA on Thursday released some of the highest-resolution photographs ever captured of Saturn’s moon Dione. The images, which show the cratered and pockmarked surface of the small icy world, were taken by the Cassini probe, which entered into orbit around the planet in 2004.

“I am moved, as I know everyone else is, looking at these exquisite images of Dione’s surface and crescent, and knowing that they are the last we will see of this far-off world for a very long time to come,” Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute at Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. “Right down to the last, Cassini has faithfully delivered another extraordinary set of riches.”

This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft looks toward Saturn's icy moon Dione, with giant Saturn and its rings in the background, just prior to the mission's final close approach to the moon on August 17, 2015. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Dione hangs in front of Saturn and its icy rings in this view, captured during Cassini's final close flyby of the icy moon. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Scientists hope to learn more about Dione’s interior structure and geologic processes by studying the images, and data gathered using the magnetosphere, and plasma and gravity science instruments, aboard the space probe.

“We had just enough time to snap a few images, giving us nice, high resolution looks at the surface,” Tilmann Denk, a Cassini participating scientist at Freie University in Berlin, said in the statement. “We were able to make use of reflected sunlight from Saturn as an additional light source, which revealed details in the shadows of some of the images.”

As Cassini soared above high northern latitudes on Saturn's moon Dione, the spacecraft looked down at a region near the day-night boundary. This view shows the region as a contrast-enhanced image in which features in shadow are illuminated by reflected light from Saturn. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Saturn's moon Dione hangs in front of Saturn's rings in this view. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission has been working since July 2004 to study the gas giant and its huge family of 62 moons and several smaller moonlets.

Before the mission’s culmination in late 2017, the spacecraft will make a few other close flybys of the planet’s satellites, including that of the geologically active Enceladus. Additionally, Cassini will make nearly two dozen flybys of several small, irregularly shaped moons, including Daphnis, Telesto, Epimetheus and Aegaeon.

And, before its fatal plunge through the gas giant’s atmosphere, the spacecraft will repeatedly dive through the space between Saturn and its rings, providing scientists best-ever views of the gigantic structures.