Cassini took this beautiful image of a crescent-lit Enceladus shadowed against Saturn’s silhouette during Friday’s flyby, demonstrating once again its uncanny ability to capture wonderfully-composed shots that illustrate the inherent beauty of our family of planets.
Enceladus is the now-famous moon with “jet-power”…continually erupting geysers spray water ice out into space from long “tiger stripe” fissures that slice across its southern pole. Discovered in 2005, these geysers immediately attracted the attention of astronomers everywhere. What causes these geysers? Where is the water coming from? And how can water stay liquid on a little moon the size of Arizona when everything else that far from the sun is frozen solid? And of course, there’s the big question: where there’s water, and the heat needed to keep it liquid, can there also be life? We get a few more answers – and questions – with every flyby Cassini performs…and if we’re lucky we get some great images too. 🙂
Here’s a couple more, one closer up and from a lower angle and the other with brighter lighting on the southern pole, both showing the geysers in action.
Check out more images from Friday’s flyby on the CICLOPS site. There’s some great shots of Tethys and Dione too!
Image credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
ADDED: Here’s an interesting raw image from the Cassini main site too: a close-up of one of the tiger stripes with a bright haze of erupting ice running along its length…basically a “down-the-barrel” view of a geyser! If that’s indeed what it is, it’s awesome.