At least four distinct plumes of water ice spew out from the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus in this dramatically illuminated image.
Light reflected off Saturn is illuminating the surface of the moon while the sun, almost directly behind Enceladus, is backlighting the plumes. See Bursting at the Seams to learn more about Enceladus and its plumes.
This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Enceladus (504 kilometers, or 313 miles across). North is up.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 25, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 617,000 kilometers (383,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 174 degrees. Image scale is 4 kilometers (2 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.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute