Wow. Cassini the artist has struck again, this time with amazing images from the close flyby of Enceladus that we wrote a preview about earlier this week. Cassini flew by Enceladus during the early hours of May 18 UTC, coming within about 435 kilometers (270 miles) of the moon’s surface. The raw images came in late last night, and in my inbox this morning was an email from Stuart Atkinson, (no relation, but great name) alerting me to the treasures. Stu himself has called this image “the new iconic image of the space age,” and Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Blog has called these images “some of the most amazing Cassini has captured yet.”
What you’re seeing here is hazy Titan, backlit by the Sun, with Saturn’s rings in the foreground– plus, at the way bottom is the limb of the night side of Enceladus’ south pole. Emily has created a flipped, annotated image (plus there’s more Enceladus jaw-droppers below:
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Three huge “fountains” of Enceladus geysers are visible in this raw image taken by Cassini on May 18, 2010. The camera was pointing toward Enceladus at approximately 14,972 kilometers away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. Emily, with her photo editing prowess, has created a movie from four different images as Cassini cruised closer to the moon.
Astro0 on UnmannedSpaceflight.com has put the two different images together to create a collage of what it would have looked like if the plumes were visible in the image with Titan. Gorgeous! Plus, here’s a color version Astro0 created.
Plus there’s this very interesting raw image from Cassini:
Cassini will be flying by Titan in the early hours of May 20 UTC, coming within 1,400 kilometers (750 miles) of the surface. Although Cassini will primarily be doing radio science during this pass to detect subtle variations in the gravitational tug on the spacecraft by Titan, hopefully we’ll see some new visible light images of Titan, as well.