Cassini spacecraft successfully dipped near the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus on Nov. 30.NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully dipped near the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus on Nov. 30. Though Cassini's closest approach took it to within about 48 kilometres of the moon's northern hemisphere, the spacecraft also captured shadowy images of the tortured south polar terrain and the brilliant jets that spray out from it.Many of the raw images feature darkened terrain because winter has descended upon the southern hemisphere of Enceladus. But sunlight behind the moon backlights the jets of water vapour and icy particles. In some images, the jets line up in rows, forming curtains of spray.
New images and data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft give scientists a unique Saturn-lit view of active fissures through the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus. They reveal a more complicated web of warm fractures than previously thought. Scientists working jointly with Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer and its high-resolution imaging camera have constructed the highest-resolution heat intensity maps yet of the hottest part of a region of long fissures spraying water vapour and icy particles from Enceladus. These fissures have been nicknamed "tiger stripes." Additional high-resolution spectrometer maps of one end of the tiger stripes Alexandria Sulcus and Cairo Sulcus reveal never-before-seen warm fractures that branch off like split ends from the main tiger stripe trenches. They also show an intriguing warm spot isolated from other active surface fissures.
Managers of NASA's Cassini spacecraft mission expect to get a full stream of data during this week's flyby of the Saturnian moon Enceladus, according to a release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission for NASA. Cassini resumed normal operations last week after going into safe mode on Nov. 2.The flyby on Nov. 30 will bring Cassini to within about 48 kilometres of the surface of Enceladus. At 61 degrees north latitude, this encounter and its twin three weeks later at the same altitude and latitude, are the closest Cassini will come to the northern hemisphere surface of Enceladus during the extended Solstice mission.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft discovered a giant plume of water gushing from cracks in the surface near the south pole of Saturns moon Enceladus in 2005, indicating that there was a reservoir of water beneath the ice. Cassini data also suggest that the south polar has been continuously releasing about 13 billion watts of energy. But how does Enceladus stay warm enough to maintain liquid water underground?In smaller moons like Enceladus, the cache of radioactive elements usually is not massive enough to produce significant heat for long. So, scientists have considered the role of tidal heating - the gravitational pull from Saturn as Enceladus orbits the planet - as a way to keep Enceladus warm enough for liquid water to remain under its surface.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its 26-hour gravity observation at Saturn's moon Enceladus this week, sending back data scientists will use to understand the moon's interior composition and structure.The flyby took Cassini through the water-rich plume flaring out from Enceladus' south polar region, with a closest approach of about 100 kilometers (60 miles) occurring in the late afternoon of April 27, 2010, Pacific Time, or just after midnight April 28 UTC.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be gliding low over Saturn's moon Enceladus for a gravity experiment designed to probe the moon's interior composition. The flyby, which will take Cassini through the water-rich plume flaring out from Enceladus's south polar region, will occur on April 27 Pacific time and April 28 UTC. At closest approach, Cassini will be flying about 100 kilometres above the moon's surface.
Observations of how Saturn's moon Enceladus interacts with its environment show it leaves a complex pattern of ripples and bubbles in its wake. Sheila Kanani will be presenting the results at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Glasgow on Thursday 14th April.Enceladus sits deep within Saturn's magnetosphere, which is filled with electrically charged particles (plasma) originating from both the planet and its moons. The Cassini spacecraft has made nine flybys of the mysterious sixth-largest moon since 2005. The closest of these have taken the spacecraft's suite of instruments just 25 km from Enceladus's surface, which scientists believe conceals a saline ocean. Heated vents at the south pole of the moon release a plume of material, consisting mainly of icy grains and water vapour, into space. Measurements from the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS) and the Magnetospheric IMaging Instrument (MIMI) show that both the moon and its plume are continuously soaking up the plasma, which rushes past at around 30 kilometres per second, leaving a cavity downstream. In addition, the most energetic particles which zoom up and down Saturn's magnetic field lines are swept up, leaving a much larger void in the high energy plasma. Material from Enceladus, both dust and gas, is also being charged and forming new plasma.