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The “first detailed radar images” of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s 60+ moons, were expected to be taken yesterday when NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flew by the icy body.

Artist's concept of the Nov. 6, 2011, flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to NASA:

These will be the first high-resolution radar observations made of an icy moon other than Titan. The results will provide new information about the surface of Enceladus and enable researchers to compare its geological features as seen by radar with those of Titan.

During this flyby, the mission’s visible-light cameras will take images of Enceladus and its famous jets, and the composite infrared spectrometer will make new measurements of hot spots from which the jets emerge. Cassini’s ultraviolet imaging spectrograph will also make distant observations of Saturn’s moon Dione and its environment.


It is believed that Enceladus’ jets  – think ‘Old-Faithful-like geysers erupting from giant fractures’ – supply ice to one of Saturn’s rings. Pretty cool, right?

This image of Saturn's moon Enceladus was obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Jan. 31, 2011. It shows the famous jets erupting from the south polar terrain of Enceladus. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI