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Facing_Enceladus_large.jpg

A patchwork network of frozen ridges and troughs cover the face of Enceladus, Saturn's most enigmatic of icy moons.
This face-on colour view of Enceladus was taken by the international Cassini spacecraft on 31 January 2011, from a distance of 81 000 km, and processed by amateur astronomer Gordan Ugarkovic.

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Enceladus is the sixth-largest of the moons of Saturn. It was discovered on the 28th August, 1789, by William Herschel.
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 Enceladus Plume is a New Kind of Plasma Laboratory

Recent findings from NASA's Cassini mission reveal that Saturn's geyser moon Enceladus provides a special laboratory for watching unusual behaviour of plasma, or hot ionised gas. In these recent findings, some Cassini scientists think they have observed "dusty plasma," a condition theorised but not previously observed on site, near Enceladus.
Data from Cassini's fields and particles instruments also show that the usual "heavy" and "light" species of charged particles in normal plasma are actually reversed near the plume spraying from the moon's south polar region. The findings are discussed in two recent papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

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Cassini reveals details about charged 'nanograins' near Enceladus

Charged dust grains found in geyser plumes that supply outer ring of Saturn

It was a call that Rice University physicist Tom Hill '67 had waited more than 20 years to receive. It traveled almost a billion miles to reach him. And the message - once it arrived from NASA's Cassini spacecraft near Saturn - was so enigmatic that it would take another three years to decipher.
In a new study, Hill and colleagues describe what they found in the data from Cassini: a new class of space particles - submicroscopic "nanograins" of electrically charged dust. Such particles are believed to exist throughout the universe, and this marks the first time researchers have measured and analysed them.

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Cassini Successfully Flies over Enceladus

Cassini flew by Enceladus at an altitude of about 74 kilometres. This flyby was designed primarily for the ion and neutral mass spectrometer to analyse, or "taste," the composition of the moon's south polar plume as the spacecraft flew through it.  Cassini's path took it along the length of Baghdad Sulcus, one of Enceladus' "tiger stripe" fractures from which jets of water ice, water vapour and organic compounds spray into space. At this time, Baghdad Sulcus is in darkness, but that was not an obstacle for another instrument, the composite infrared spectrometer, which can see features by their surface temperatures and which also took measurements during this flyby.
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 Cassini to Dip into Enceladus Spray Again

Less than three weeks after its last visit to the Saturnian moon Enceladus, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returns for an encore. At closest approach on April 14, the spacecraft will be just as low over the moon's south polar region as it was on March 27 -- 46 miles, or 74 kilometres.
Like the last, this latest flyby is mainly designed for Cassini's ion and neutral mass spectrometer, which will "taste" the particles in the curious jets spraying from the moon's south polar region.

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Is it Snowing Microbes on Enceladus?

There's a tiny moon orbiting beyond Saturn's rings that's full of promise, and maybe -- just maybe -- microbes.
In a series of tantalisingly close flybys to the moon, named "Enceladus," NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed watery jets erupting from what may be a vast underground sea. These jets, which spew through cracks in the moon's icy shell, could lead back to a habitable zone that is uniquely accessible in all the solar system.

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enceladus270312b.jpg
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Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This image of Enceladus was taken by the Cassini spacecraft on the 27th March, 2012, when it was approximately 282,725 kilometres away.
The image was taken using the CL1 and IR1 filters.



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Cassini to Make Closest Pass Yet over Enceladus South Pole

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is preparing to make its lowest pass yet over the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus, where icy particles and water vapour spray out in glittering jets. The closest approach, at an altitude of about 74 kilometres, will occur around 18:30 UT on March 27.
This flyby is primarily designed for Cassini's ion and neutral mass spectrometer, which will attempt to "taste" particles from the jets. Scientists using this spectrometer will utilise the data to learn more about the composition, density and variability of the plume. The Cassini plasma spectrometer, which team members worked to return to service so it could gather high-priority measurements during this flyby, will also be analysing Saturn's magnetic and plasma environment near Enceladus and sampling the plume material near closest approach.

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ENCELADUS100312B.jpg
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Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This image of Enceladus was taken by the Cassini spacecraft on March 10, 2012 when it was approximately 183,005 kilometres away.
The image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters.



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 Extraterrestrial Ocean

Enceladus has always been thought of as one of the more remarkable members of Saturn's marble bag of satellites. For one thing, it's dazzlingly bright. The percentage of sunlight that any body in the solar system reflects back is known as its albedo, and it's determined mostly by the colour of its ground cover. For all the silvery brilliance of a full moon on a cloudless night, the albedo of our own drab satellite is a muddy 12%, owing mostly to the grey dust that covers it. The albedo of Enceladus, on the other hand, approaches a mirrorlike 100%.
That likely meant that the surface was covered with ice crystals - and, what's more, that those crystals get regularly replenished.

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Saturn's Rings and Enceladus

PIA14594_L.jpg

A crescent Enceladus appears with Saturn's rings in this Cassini spacecraft view of the moon.
The image was taken with Cassini's narrow-angle camera on 4 January at a distance of 291 000 km from Enceladus. Image scale is about 2 km per pixel.

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