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Gallery – Geyser moon seen in silhouette

Saturn's moon Enceladus

Saturn's moon Enceladus appears in silhouette in this image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The bulk of Saturn is in the background, the planet's rings seen edge-on appear as the dark horizontal line.

NASA’S CASSINI SPACECRAFT took this image of Saturn’s moon Enceladus on October 19, 2011. As the spacecraft passed Enceladus, its infrared instruments, cameras and other instruments monitored activity on the moon, in particular the famed jets erupting from the its south pole. The orbiter flew within about 1,230 kilometres of Enceladus’ surface.

Although it appears dark in the silhouetted view, Enceladus, 504 kilometres wide, is actually one of the most reflective bodies in the Solar System because it is constantly coated by fresh, white particles of ice.

Also visible are Saturn’s rings, seen edge on.

More information:

Enceladus – Saturn’s shiny moon

The eruptions of Enceladus

Adapted from information issued by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

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Gallery – Quintet of Saturnian moons

Five of Saturn's moons

Five of Saturn's moons can be seen in this image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

A QUINTET OF SATURN’S MOONS can be seen in this view taken by the Cassini spacecraft.

Janus (179 kilometres wide) is on the far left. Pandora (81 kilometres) orbits between the A ring and the thin F ring near the middle of the image. Brightly reflective Enceladus (504 kilometres) appears above the centre of the image. Saturn’s second largest moon, Rhea (1,528 kilometres), is bisected by the right edge of the image. The smaller moon Mimas (396 kilometres) can be seen beyond Rhea also on the right side of the image.

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from just above the ringplane. Rhea is closest to the camera. Saturn’s rings are beyond Rhea and Mimas. Enceladus also is beyond the rings.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2011. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million kilometres from Rhea and 1.8 million kilometres from Enceladus.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute.

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Trio of Saturnian moons

Three of Saturn's moons

Three of Saturn's moons captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. From left: Dione, Rhea and Enceladus.

NASA’S CASSINI SPACECRAFT snapped this image of three of Saturn’s moons and part of the planet’s rings.

Saturn is not illuminated in this image, but it can be detected as the dark patch on the left that lies behind the foreground rings but in front of the background rings. It also partially obscures the moon on the left.

That moon is Dione (1,123 kilometres wide), around 3.1 million kilometres from Cassini when this image was taken.

In the foreground is Rhea (1,528 km wide). It is closest to the camera, at a distance of about 2.2 million kilometres.

The third moon, on the right, is Enceladus (504 km wide), seen at a distance of about 3 million kilometres.

Enceladus is the source of much interest at the moment, as Cassini’s instruments have detected huge plumes of salty spray shooting up from cracks near it’s south pole, suggesting a liquid ocean lies beneath the frozen surface.

More information:

Cassini-Huygens mission

Cassini imaging team homepage

Story by Jonathan Nally, SpaceInfo.com.au. Images courtesy NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute.

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Enceladus – Saturn’s shiny moon

Saturn's moon Enceladus

Saturn's moon Enceladus is kept looking young by a fresh coating of fine, white icy particles. This Cassini spacecraft image taken from a distance of 102,000km.

SATURN’S MOON ENCELADUS reflects sunlight brightly while the planet and its rings fill the background, in this image (above) taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

Enceladus, 504 kilometres wide, is one of the most reflective bodies in the Solar System because it is constantly coated by fresh, white ice particles.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 102,000 kilometres from Enceladus, giving an image resolution of 612 metres per pixel.

In an image from a different angle (below), Cassini looked over cratered and tectonically deformed terrain on Enceladus as the camera also caught a glimpse of Saturn’s rings in the background. The image was taken during the spacecraft’s flyby of Enceladus on November 30, 2010.

Saturn's moon Enceladus

Saturn's rings form the backdrop to this Cassini view of Enceladus, taken from a distance of 46,000km.

Geologically young terrain in the middle latitudes of the moon gives way to older, cratered terrain in the northern latitudes.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 46,000 kilometres from Enceladus, giving an image scale of 276 metres per pixel.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute.

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The eruptions of Enceladus

Enceladus

Ice plumes erupting from the near the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Barely 500 kilometres wide, Saturn’s moon Enceladus has attracted a lot of attention in recent years since the discovery of geysers shooting out from near its south pole.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spotted plumes, large and small, spraying water ice out from many locations along what have been dubbed “tiger stripes”…fissures in the crust that spray icy particles, water vapour and organic compounds.

The image above was taken from a distance of approximately 431,000 kilometres (268,000 miles).

In the Cassini image below, over 30 individual jets of different sizes can be seen, more than 20 of which had not been seen before the image was taken.

Enceladus

Scientists have counted over 30 individual plumes shooting out from a region of fissures on Enceladus known as the "tiger stripes".

This mosaic was created from two high-resolution images that were captured by the narrow-angle camera when NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flew past Enceladus and through the jets on November 21, 2009. Imaging the jets over time will allow Cassini scientists to study the consistency of their activity.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 14,000 kilometres (9,000 miles), giving a resolution of 81 metres (267 feet) per pixel.

Here’s a short video on some of the recent investigations of Enceladus.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / ESA.

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Shadows on Saturn

The shadows of Enceladus (left) and Titan (right) on Saturn's cloud tops.

The shadows of Enceladus (left) and Titan (right) on Saturn's cloud tops.

These two views from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, currently in orbit around Saturn, show the huge difference in scale between it’s largest Moon, Titan, and a smaller one, Enceladus—even though the moons themselves are not in view.

On the left is a view taken with Saturn”s rings almost edge-on. On the planet’s clouds, just below the rings, can be seen a dark spot—this is the shadow being cast by Enceladus. The moon itself is a long way off to the left and not visible in this frame. Enceladus is about 500 kilometres in diameter.

On the right is another view with almost the same geometry, but this time there is a huge shadow on Saturn’s clouds, stretched out by the curve of the planet. This is the shadow of Titan, Saturn’s largest planet and one that is currently the target of many investigations.

Titan has a thick, nitrogen atmosphere, similar to what Earth’s atmosphere is thought to have been like billions of years ago. Titan is 10 times bigger than Enceladus, with an average diameter of 2,576 kilometres.

A view of the surface of Titan, taken by the Huygens probe

A view of the surface of Titan, taken by the Huygens probe after it landed on January 14, 2005

On January 14, 2005, the Huygens probe—which had been carried by Cassini all the way from Earth—descended through Titan’s clouds and landed safely on its surface. It found a frozen world, but one that sometimes experiences rain and rivers of methane and ethane at super-cold temperatures.

In just a couple of days from now, July 7, Cassini will make another close fly-by of Titan—swooping over the moon at a distance of only 1,005 kilometres—and will train its suite of instruments on the thick clouds and frozen surface.

The left-hand view above was taken from a distance of around 1.7 million kilometres from Saturn, while the right-hand view was from around 2.1 million kilometres.

Story by Jonathan Nally, Editor, SpaceInfo.com.au

Images courtesy NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute.

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