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What’s Enceladus?

What’s Enceladus?

Before we tell you about Enceladus, let’s first talk about our Cassini spacecraft…

Our Cassini mission to Saturn is one of the most ambitious efforts in planetary space exploration ever mounted. Cassini is a sophisticated robotic spacecraft orbiting the ringed planet and studying the Saturnian system in detail.

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Cassini completed its initial four-year mission to explore the Saturn System in June 2008. It has also completed its first mission extension in September 2010. Now, the health spacecraft is making exciting new discoveries in a second extension mission!

Enceladus

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Enceladus is one of Saturn’s many moons, and is one of the brightest objects in our solar system. This moon is about as wide as Arizona, and displays at least five different types of terrain. The surface is believed to be geologically “young”, possibly less than 100 million years old.

Cassini first discovered continually-erupting fountains of icy material on Enceladus in 2005. Since then, the Saturn moon has become one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for present-day habitable environments.  

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Scientists found that hydrothermal activity may be occurring on the seafloor of the moon’s underground ocean. In September, it was announced that its ocean –previously thought to only be a regional sea – was global!

Since Cassini is nearing the end of its mission, we are able to make a series of three close encounters with Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons.

Close Encounters

On Oct. 14, Cassini performed a mid-range flyby of Enceladus, but the main event will take place on Oct. 28, when Cassini will come dizzyingly close to the icy moon. During this flyby, the spacecraft will pass a mere 30 miles above the moon’s south polar region!

What’s Enceladus?

This will be the deepest-ever dive through the moon’s plume of icy spray, where Cassini can collect images and valuable data about what’s going on beneath the frozen surface.

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