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SATURN DAILY
Closest-ever Views of Saturn's Moon Enceladus
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 16, 2015


NASA's Cassini spacecraft spied this tight trio of craters as it approached Saturn's icy moon Enceladus for a close flyby on Oct. 14, 2015. The craters, located at high northern latitudes, are sliced through by thin fractures -- part of a network of similar cracks that wrap around the snow-white moon. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. For a larger version of this image please go here.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has begun returning its best-ever views of the northern extremes of Saturn's icy, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. The spacecraft obtained the images during its Oct. 14 flyby, passing 1,142 miles (1,839 kilometers) above the moon's surface.

Mission controllers say the spacecraft will continue transmitting images and other data from the encounter for the next several days.

Scientists expected the north polar region of Enceladus to be heavily cratered, based on low-resolution images from the Voyager mission, but the new high-resolution Cassini images show a landscape of stark contrasts.

"The northern regions are crisscrossed by a spidery network of gossamer-thin cracks that slice through the craters," said Paul Helfenstein, a member of the Cassini imaging team at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

"These thin cracks are ubiquitous on Enceladus, and now we see that they extend across the northern terrains as well."

Cassini's next encounter with Enceladus is planned for Oct. 28, when the spacecraft will come within 30 miles (49 kilometers) of the moon's south polar region. During the encounter, Cassini will make its deepest-ever dive through the moon's plume of icy spray, sampling the chemistry of the extraterrestrial ocean beneath the ice.

Mission scientists are hopeful data from that flyby will provide evidence of how much hydrothermal activity is occurring in the moon's ocean, along with more detailed insights about the ocean's chemistry -- both of which relate to the potential habitability of Enceladus.

Cassini's final close Enceladus flyby will take place on Dec. 19, when the spacecraft will measure the amount of heat coming from the moon's interior. The flyby will be at an altitude of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers).

In addition to the processed images, unprocessed, or "raw," images are posted on the Cassini mission website here; An online toolkit for all three final Enceladus flybys is available here


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Previous Report
SATURN DAILY
Cassini Begins Series of Flybys with Close-up of Saturn Moon Enceladus
Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 16, 2015
NASA's Cassini spacecraft will wrap up its time in the region of Saturn's large, icy moons with a series of three close encounters with Enceladus starting Wednesday, Oct. 14. Images are expected to begin arriving one to two days after the flyby, which will provide the first opportunity for a close-up look at the north polar region of Enceladus. Wednesday's flyby is considered a moderately ... read more


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