Plumes of icy material extend above the southern polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus as imaged by the Cassini spacecraft in February 2005. The monochrome view is presented along with a color-coded version on the right. The latter reveals a fainter and much more extended plume component.
Images like these are being analyzed by scientists as they seek to explain the processes that could be producing such incredible features. As reported in the journal Science on March 10, 2006, imaging scientists believe that the plumes are geysers erupting from pressurized subsurface reservoirs of liquid water above 273 degrees Kelvin (0 degrees Celsius).
Another plume view, (Spray Above Enceladus II), was taken one month earlier and looks broadside at the moon's prominent "tiger stripe" fractures. In the January view, the plume appears to have a single component. This (February) view looks along the tiger stripe fractures and reveals both a large and a small component to the plume; the smaller, fainter component is separated from the main plume by about 100 kilometers (60 miles).
See Tiger Stripes Up Close for a view of the tiger stripe features.
This clear-filter image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera at a distance of approximately 321,000 kilometers (199,000 miles) from Enceladus at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 153 degrees. The image scale is approximately 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) 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.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute