Saturn's geyser moon Enceladus shows off for Cassini

October 4, 2011
Cassini sees jets of water vapor and ice from Enceladus. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its Oct. 1 flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus and its jets of water vapor and ice. At its closest approach, the spacecraft flew approximately 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the moon's surface. The close approach was designed to give some of Cassini's instruments, including the ion and neutral mass spectrometer, the chance to "taste" the jets themselves.

At a higher vantage point during the encounter, Cassini's high-resolution camera captured pictures of the jets emanating from the moon's south polar region. The latest raw images of Enceladus are online.

The images of the surface include previously seen leading-hemisphere terrain. However, during this encounter, multi-spectral imaging of these terrains extended farther into the ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum than had previously been achieved at this resolution. By looking at the surface at , scientists can better detect the difference between surface materials and shadows than they can at , where icy materials are highly reflective and shadows are washed out. With both ultraviolet and visible images of the same terrain available to them, scientists will better understand how the surface coverage of icy particles coming from the vents and plumes changes with terrain type and age.

Cassini's next pass of this fascinating moon will be Oct. 19, when the spacecraft flies by at an altitude of approximately 765 miles (1231 kilometers).

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the in Boulder, Colo. The Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer science team is based at the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas.

Explore further: Cassini returns images of bright jets at Enceladus

Related Stories

Divine dione captured by Cassini

September 8, 2010

Cruising past Saturn's moon Dione this past weekend, NASA's Cassini spacecraft got its best look yet at the north polar region of this small, icy moon and returned stark raw images of the fractured, cratered surface.

Cassini presents Saturn moon quintet

September 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the artistry of a magazine cover shoot, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this portrait of five of Saturn's moons poised along the planet's rings.

Cassini's Photo Album From a Season of Icy Moons

December 7, 2005

Wrapping up a phenomenally successful year of observing Saturn's icy moons, the Cassini mission is releasing a flood of new views of the moons Enceladus, Dione, Rhea, Hyperion and Iapetus.

Cassini completes Rhea flyby

January 14, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft has successfully completed its closest flyby of Saturn's moon Rhea, returning raw images of the icy moon's surface.

Recommended for you

Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome

January 20, 2017

Crammed into a dome with one bathroom, six scientists will spend eight months munching on mostly freeze-dried foods—with a rare treat of Spam—and have only their small sleeping quarters to retreat to for solace.

Image: Wavemaker moon Daphnis

January 20, 2017

The wavemaker moon, Daphnis, is featured in this view, taken as NASA's Cassini spacecraft made one of its ring-grazing passes over the outer edges of Saturn's rings on Jan. 16, 2017. This is the closest view of the small ...

Video: A colorful 'landing' on Pluto

January 20, 2017

What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip ...

The evolution of massive galaxy clusters

January 20, 2017

Galaxy clusters have long been recognized as important laboratories for the study of galaxy formation and evolution. The advent of the new generation of millimeter and submillimeter wave survey telescopes, like the South ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

NickFun
not rated yet Oct 05, 2011
Could anyone explain how the water on Enceladus is constantly replenished as it has supposedly been spewing water for many millions of years. A moon the size of Arizona would have spent its supply relatively quickly without replenishement!

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.