The tortured southern polar terrain of Enceladus appears strewn with great boulders of ice in this fantastic view, one of the highest resolution images obtained so far by Cassini of any world.
Some smearing of the image due to spacecraft motion is apparent in this scene, which was acquired as Enceladus raced past Cassini's field of view near the time of closest approach. At the time, the imaging cameras were pointed close to the moon's limb (edge), rather than directly below the spacecraft. This allowed for less motion blur than would have been apparent had the cameras pointed straight down. Thus, the terrain imaged here was actually at a distance of 319 kilometers (198 miles) from Cassini.
At this fine scale, the surface is dominated by ice blocks between 10 and 100 meters (33 and 330 feet) across. The origin of these icy boulders is enigmatic. Scientists are interested in studying the sizes and numbers of the blocks in this bizarre scene, and in understanding whether terrain covered with boulders is common on Enceladus.
A wide-angle camera view centered on this location on Enceladus is available (see Boulder-strewn Surface -- Wide-angle Camera View), as well as a comparison view showing the position of this image within the wide-angle image (see Boulder-strewn Surface).
The image was taken during Cassini's very close flyby of Enceladus on July 14, 2005, from a distance of approximately 208 kilometers (129 miles) above Enceladus. Resolution in the image is about 4 meters (13 feet) per pixel. The image has been contrast enhanced to improve the visibility of surface.
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.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute