Cassini probe teases with intimate Enceladus snaps

Beams back first images from Saturnian moon fly-by

Image of Enceladus taken during Cassini fly-by. Pic: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Enceladus from Cassini during this week's fly-by. Pic: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA has published some unprocessed images of Saturn's moon Enceladus, grabbed earlier this week when the Cassini spacecraft swooped to within 49km (30 miles) of the icy satellite's south polar region.

Images from the intimate encounter include Enceladus posing with Saturn's rings...

Enceladus and Saturn's rings. Pic: NASA/JPL-Caltech

...a full-length portrait...

Cassini's full view of Enceladus. Pic: NASA/JPL-Caltech

...and an interesting close-up:

Cassini's close-up of the surface of Enceladus. Pic: NASA/JPL-Caltech

While NASA says there will be more imagery to come, it stresses that the primary objective of the fly-by was to get samples of the moon's liquid plumes, which erupt from a sub-surface ocean.

The space agency explains: "Researchers will soon begin studying data from Cassini's gas analyzer and dust detector instruments, which directly sampled the moon's plume of gas and dust-sized icy particles during the flyby.

"Those analyses are likely to take several weeks, but should provide important insights about the composition of the global ocean beneath Enceladus' surface and any hydrothermal activity occurring on the ocean floor." ®

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