The Cassini spacecraft, which is currently orbiting around Saturn, has given us many stunning images. And it has made some stunning discoveries.
One such discovery is that plumes of water ice are venting from one of Saturn’s small moons, Enceladus:
Plumes of ice venting from Enceladus.
This was a complete surprise. Enceladus was thought to be too small to be geologically active.
Since the initial discovery, there have since been several close encounters. Indeed, Cassini has flown through the plumes and various molecules have been detected, including water and even organic chemicals.
Plumes of icy particles, water vapour and organic compounds spray out from the tiger stripes near the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Before we get to some detailed images of the surface and the vents, let’s first take a look at some eye candy:
The ice-covered moon, Enceladus.
Enceladus, Saturn’s rings and Titan in the distance.
Enceladus backdropped by ring shadows on Saturn.
Enceladus in front of Saturn’s Rings and rings’ shadows.
Now for some bigger, more details images:
This is a three-image mosaic and is one of the highest resolution images of Enceladus’ north polar region. Click for 3380 x 2211 version.
And in this image you can see the “tiger stripes” – these are where the ice plumes vent from (click for 3237 x 3812 version):
A high resolution Cassini image of Enceladus from a close flyby showing newly created ‘tiger stripes’ – shown here in false-colour blue. The so-called tiger stripes are known to vent ice from the moon’s interior and actually create and sustain one of Saturn’s rings – the E-ring. Click for 3237 x 3812 version.
This image was created from 16-images and shows the “trailing hemisphere” – the side of Enceladus that always faces away from the direction of the satellite’s orbital motion around Saturn. Click for 8804 x 8804 version.
This image was created from four high resolution images taken by the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera. The view is about 300 kilometres across and shows the faults, fractures, folds, troughs and craters. Click for 3750 x 2876 version.
Close-up of the south polar terrain and the tiger stripe fractures. Click for 5500 x 7700 version.
A flattened map of the surface (click for the 7200 x 3600 version):
This mosaic shows a global map of Enceladus.
Space Scenery series.