Headlines > News > Cassini, Saturn Moon Photographer

Cassini, Saturn Moon Photographer

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu May 3, 2012 6:46 am via: NASA
Share
More share options
Tools
Tags

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully flew by Saturn’s moons Enceladus and Dione during close flybys on May 2, 2012, capturing these raw images. The flybys were the last close encounters of these icy moons that Cassini will make for three years.

Cassini flew by Enceladus at an altitude of about 46 miles (74 kilometers). This flyby was designed primarily for the radio science sub-system to measure variations in Enceladus’ gravity field.

This raw, unprocessed image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on May 2, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Enceladus at approximately 239,799 miles (385,919 kilometers) away. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This raw, unprocessed image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on May 2, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Enceladus at approximately 239,799 miles (385,919 kilometers) away. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

On approach to Enceladus, Cassini’s cameras imaged the icy satellite’s south polar plume, which consists of jets of water ice, water vapor and organic compounds sprayed into space from the moon’s famed “tiger stripe” fractures. The plume images were captured at distances ranging from 259,000 miles (416,000 kilometers) down to 66,000 miles (106,000 kilometers) when Enceladus was just a thin crescent and the plume was backlit.

During closest approach, the radio science team looked for a concentration of mass at the south pole that could indicate sub-surface liquid water or an intrusion of warmer-than-average ice that might explain the intriguing geologic activity at the south pole. After the closest approach, the composite infrared spectrometer obtained a map of Enceladus’ sun-lit side while Cassini’s visible light cameras rode along and captured several images of the moon’s leading hemisphere at resolutions of about 1,500 feet (450 meters) per pixel.

Later this month, a close encounter with Titan on May 22 will pitch the spacecraft up out of the equatorial plane and into a nearly three-year-long phase of inclined orbits that will showcase the northern and southern reaches of Saturn. On March 9, 2013, Cassini will make a close pass by Rhea, but the spacecraft won’t have another close, targeted encounter with any of Saturn’s other icy satellites until June 2015, when it encounters Dione. Cassini will make its next flyby of Enceladus on Oct. 14, 2015.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

No comments
Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this article!
Leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
© 2014 The International Space Fellowship, developed by Gabitasoft Interactive. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy | Terms of Use