Posted: October 13, 2008
On 9 October, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully executed a daring dive through the icy plumes emanating from the tiger stripes in the south polar region of Saturn’s enigmatic moon Enceladus.
The spacecraft tasted the ingredients of the plumes and the data is now being analysed. Meanwhile, here are some of the first, and unprocessed, images received on Earth from the depths of the Saturnian system.
All of the images show extensive ridges and fault lines that stretch across the moon's surface, but this image reveals a particularly massive chasm, which could have once been a source of the geyser-like plumes. This image was taken at a distance of 42,000 kilometres with a resolution of 503 metres per pixel. Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
The ridges and faults are not just restricted to straight lines; one system seen in the bottom left corner of this image has been deformed and bent around like a meander in a river. This image was taken at a distance of 26,000 kilometres with a resolution of 312 metres per pixel. Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
The moon's surface is etched with impact craters in the far right of this image, taken at a distance of 47,000 kilometres with a resolution of 279 metres pixel. Dark grey smokey shapes also dominate the central parts of this image. Are they due to camera shake causing blurring, a surface feature, or are they plumes in action? The Cassini Imaging Team are now analysing this new data and will report on the results soon. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
Cassini will perform another flyby of the icy satellite on 31 October. Stay tuned to www.astronomynow.com for further updates.
Oct 08 Cassini prepares for double flyby... read more
Aug 28 Cassini pintpoints source of Enceladus jets read more
Aug 13 Enceladus images dazzling success read more
Aug 12 Cassini swoops past Enceladus read more
Jun 02 Cassini primed for extended tour of Saturn read more
May 21 Cassini maps of Saturn’s moons... read more
Mar 27 Cassini tastes organic material... read more
Mar 14 Cassini flyby success read more
Mar 11 Cassini to dive into water plume... read more