In the dim light of the outer solar system, Cassini gazed back at Saturn's brightest gem -- the moon Enceladus. The icy little world presents only a slim crescent in this natural color view.
Cassini has now matched the best spatial resolution on Enceladus achieved by NASA's Voyager spacecraft, and will soon have excellent coverage of the moon (at more than 10 times the resolution in this image), following a flyby planned for February 17.
When seen from its day side, Enceladus (499 kilometers, or 310 miles across) has one of the brightest and whitest surfaces in the solar system. Since it reflects most of the sunlight that strikes it, the temperature there remains at a chilly -200 degrees Celsius (-330 degrees Fahrenheit).
In this view, Cassini was pointed at the leading hemisphere of Enceladus, which was in darkness at the time. The image has been rotated so that north on Enceladus is up.
Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were acquired with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on Jan. 16, 2005, at a distance of approximately 209,300 kilometers (130,100 miles) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 148 degrees. Resolution in the original image was about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) per pixel. The image has been contrast-enhanced and magnified by a factor of two to aid visibility.
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 team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . For images visit the Cassini imaging team home page http://ciclops.org .
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute