Astronomy Picture of the Day

Thirty Thousand Kilometers Above Enceladus

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Thirty Thousand Kilometers Above Enceladus

What does the surface of Saturn's ice-spewing moon Enceladus look like?

To help find out, the
robotic Cassini
now orbiting
Saturn was sent
soaring past the
moon and even right through one of Enceladus'
ice plumes.

Cassini closed to about 52 kilometers during its closest encounter to date.

The above unprocessed image
was taken looking down from the north, from about 30,000 kilometers away.

are at least two types of terrain.

The first type of terrain has more craters than occur near
Enceladus' South Pole.

The other type of terrain has few craters but many
ridges and grooves that may have been created by
tectonic activity.

Exogeologists are currently poring over this and other
Cassini images
from last Wednesday's flyby to better understand the moon's patch-work surface, its unusual
ice-geysers, and its potential to support life.

Cassini is scheduled to fly by Enceladus at least nine more times, including an even closer pass of just 25 kilometers this coming October.

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