Cassini’s camera caught Enceladus in just the right light this past Saturday, backlit by the sun and showing off its signature icy jets. Emanating from fractures in its southern polar region, the jets are composed of water ices and hint at possible liquid water existing beneath its surface, kept liquid by heat from the moon’s core. The material from the jets enters orbit around Saturn, creating the diffuse E ring.
Enceladus, about the size of Iowa, could contain a significant amount of liquid water. More studies of this enigmatic moon are planned.
Click here for an artist’s concept of the jets in action, with Cassini overhead during its October ’08 flyby.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
I remember the day the first raw images like these came down from Cassini, was back in November 2005 IIRC and the excitement and discussion they produced. That, the Huygens landing and the first radar swaths showing Titan’s northern lakes stand out to me as some of the high points of Cassini’s mission.
I was pretty excited myself to see these new raw images on the Cassini site. It’s always cool to see the geysers in action, even if it’s old news now.
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