NASA's Cassini spacecraft has just captured the best images yet of this mysterious moon.
Scientists have been transfixed by the latest images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, the best ever look at this icy cosmic body.
Cassini came within 1,142 miles of Enceladus this week and snapped photos of its poles — its 20th flyby of the moon since it arrived in Saturn’s system back in 2004, according to a Space.com report.
More images are on their way as well as Cassini uploads them to NASA’s headquarters many miles away. And scientists can’t wait to see them after being wowed by the first images, way better than other flybys when the moon was typically cloaked in darkness, especially in the northern regions of the moon. But now it’s northern summer in Saturn’s system, and Cassini was able to capture Enceladus in all its glory.
Enceladus is a very interesting moon because scientists believe it holds oceans. Cassini was able to capture water-ice geysers on the south pole of Enceladus back in 2005, which are believed to come from an ocean of liquid water that lies beneath the ice shell that covers the moon. The latest images appear to indicate there is activity at the north pole as well.
It won’t be the last close encounter, with Cassini expect to come within a mere 30 miles of the south pole region of Enceladus on Oct. 28, the deepest dive ever. The data gathered could tell scientists about how much hydrothermal activity is happening in the ocean on the moon.
Cassini will be back for another visit on Dec. 19, when it will come at a much farther distance, 3,106 miles to be exact. The data it gathers during this visit should tell scientists about heat coming from the interior of the satellite. After that, Cassini will end its mission, which cost $3.2 billion, and it will do a death dive into Saturn in September 2017.