The North Polar Region of Enceladus
Date: 12 Mar 2008
This three-image mosaic is the highest resolution view yet obtained of Enceladus' north polar region. The view looks southward over cratered plains from high above the north pole of Enceladus.
Cassini's March 2008 flyby of Enceladus was designed to directly investigate the ongoing plume activity at the moon's south pole, but the path of the spacecraft allowed investigation of older evidence for internal activity near the north pole.
Compared to much of the moon's southern hemisphere -- the south polar region in particular -- the north polar region is much older and covered with craters. These craters are captured at different stages of disruption and alteration by tectonic activity and probably past heating from below. Many of the craters seen here are sliced by small parallel cracks that seem to be ubiquitous throughout the old cratered terrains on Enceladus. The mosaic also shows a variety of impact crater shapes, some with bowed-up floors and smaller craters within, very likely indicating that the icy crust in this area was at some time warmer than at present. While this conclusion was previously reached from NASA Voyager spacecraft images, these new data provide a much more detailed look at the fractures that modify the surface. This data will give a significantly improved comparison of the geologic history at the satellite's north pole with that at the south pole.
Two prominent craters in this view, Ali Baba and Aladdin (the two overlapping craters near center), are among the largest craters known on Enceladus.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on 12 March 2008. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 32,000 km (20,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 115 degrees. Image scale is 176 m (577 feet) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.
Last Update: 20 Jul 2011 (AMB)
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute