On November 20, 2009, the Cassini spacecraft buzzed the surface of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus once again, returning dramatic images of its water geysers and wrinkled, ridged surface:
That raw image (which means it has not been processed to remove instrument/detector artifacts like bad pixels and such) was taken when Cassini was a mere 2000 km (1200 miles) above the moon’s surface. The features are beautiful and plentiful… and it looks like a great place to ski. Bonus: the low gravity would make the experience last longer!
Cassini got an overview of the geysers, too, when it was still more than 500,000 km away:
Remember, these are raw images; that bright “star” just above Enceladus is probably a cosmic ray hit on the detector and not an actual astronomical object.
Over at The Planetary Society blog Emily is, of course, having kittens over the pictures, and has made some stereoscopic pairs of them (though I’ll wait for the red/green anaglyphs; crossing my eyes at my monitor makes my tummy queasy). [Edited to add: in the comments below, BABloggee Alex links to anaglyphs he created. Very cool!]
Stay tuned, because as these images are processed things will only get cooler.