Cassini successfully flies over Enceladus

Apr 17, 2012 By Jia-Rui C. Cook
Cassini successfully flies over Enceladus
This image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on April 14, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Enceladus at approximately 75,067 miles (120,808 kilometers) away. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

These raw, unprocessed images of Saturn's moons Enceladus and Tethys were taken on April 14, 2012, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini flew by Enceladus at an altitude of about 46 miles (74 kilometers). This flyby was designed primarily for the ion and neutral mass spectrometer to analyze, or "taste," the composition of the moon's south polar as the spacecraft flew through it.  Cassini's path took it along the length of Baghdad Sulcus, one of Enceladus' "tiger stripe" fractures from which jets of water ice, water vapor and organic compounds spray into space. At this time, Baghdad Sulcus is in darkness, but that was not an obstacle for another instrument, the composite infrared spectrometer, which can see features by their surface temperatures and which also took measurements during this .

Cassini successfully flies over Enceladus
This image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on April 14, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Enceladus at approximately 115 miles (185 kilometers) away. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

As soon as daylight passed into the spacecraft's remote sensing instruments' line of sight, Cassini's cameras acquired images of the surface. The wide-angle-camera image included in the new batch, taken from around the time of closest approach, has some smearing from the movement of the spacecraft during the exposure, but still shows the surface in vivid detail.

Cassini's cameras also imaged Enceladus' south polar plume at a high phase angle as the satellite appeared as a thin crescent and the plume was backlit.

Cassini successfully flies over Enceladus
This image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on April 15, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Tethys at approximately 115,714 miles (186,224 kilometers) away. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

After the encounter, Cassini passed the moon Tethys with a closest approach distance of about 5,700 miles (9,100 kilometers). This was Cassini's best imaging encounter with Tethys since a targeted encounter in September 2005. The 2005 encounter, with a closest approach distance of about 930 miles (1,500 kilometers), provided the images of Tethys with the best resolution and captured views of the side of Tethys that faces Saturn in its orbit. This new encounter examined the opposite side of Tethys, providing some of the highest-resolution images of the side that faces away from . Cassini acquired a 22-frame mosaic of this side, which features the large impact basin named Odysseus. Scientists will use these new data in conjunction with images from previous encounters to create digital elevation maps of the moon's surface.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of , the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena manages the mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. JPL is a division of Caltech.

Explore further: NASA's Webb Telescope mirror tripod in action (Video)

Related Stories

Icy Moons through Cassini's Eyes

Mar 29, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- These raw, unprocessed images of Saturn's moons Enceladus, Janus and Dione were taken on March 27 and 28, 2012, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini to dip into Enceladus spray again

Apr 16, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Less than three weeks after its last visit to the Saturnian moon Enceladus, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returns for an encore. At closest approach on April 14, the spacecraft will be just as low ...

Latest Cassini images of Enceladus on view

Oct 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Raw, unprocessed images from the successful Oct. 19 flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus by NASA's Cassini spacecraft provide new views of the moon and the icy jets that burst from its southern ...

Cassini flyby focuses on Saturn's moon Enceladus

Nov 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Saturn's moon Enceladus shows its icy face and famous plumes in raw, unprocessed images captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its successful flyby on Nov. 6, 2011.

Space Image: Welcome disruption

Jan 16, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- The line of Saturn's rings disrupts the Cassini spacecraft's view of the moons Tethys and Titan.

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.