Cassini-Huygens

The Cassini spacecraft snapped this image of Saturn's moon Helene while completing the mission's second-closest encounter of the moon on June 18, 2011.

Although Cassini's closest flyby of Helene was in March 2010 (see PIA12723 and PIA12653), this June 2011 flyby yielded some of the highest resolution images of the moon.

Lit terrain seen here is on the leading hemisphere of Helene (33 kilometers, or 21 miles across). North on Helene is up.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 7,000 kilometers (4,000 miles) from Helene and at a Sun-Helene-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 104 degrees. Image scale is 42 meters (137 feet) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
 
 
High-res Helene
The Cassini spacecraft looks over cratered and tectonically deformed terrain on Saturn's moon Enceladus as the camera also catches a glimpse of the planet's rings in the background.
The image was captured during the spacecraft's flyby of Enceladus on Nov. 30, 2010.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 46,000 kilometers (29,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 14 degrees. Image scale is 276 meters (906 feet) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
 
 
Looking Over Enceladus
This image shows the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn's moon Titan. The glint off a mirror-like surface is known as a specular reflection. This kind of glint was detected by the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) on NASA's Cassini spacecraft on July 8, 2009. It confirmed the presence of liquid in the moon's northern hemisphere, where lakes are more numerous and larger than those in the southern hemisphere. Scientists using VIMS had confirmed the presence of liquid in Ontario Lacus, the largest lake in the southern hemisphere, in 2008.

The northern hemisphere was shrouded in darkness for nearly 15 years, but the sun began to illuminate the area again as it approached its spring equinox in August 2009. VIMS was able to detect the glint as the viewing geometry changed. Titan's hazy atmosphere also scatters and absorbs many wavelengths of light, including most of the visible light spectrum. But the VIMS instrument enabled scientists to look for the glint in infrared wavelengths that were able to penetrate through the moon's atmosphere. This image was created using wavelengths of light in the 5 micron range.

By comparing the new image to radar and near-infrared light images acquired from 2006 to 2008, Cassini scientists were able to correlate the reflection to the southern shoreline of a Titan lake called Kraken Mare. The sprawling Kraken Mare covers about 400,000 square kilometers (150,000 square miles). The reflection appeared to come from a part of the lake around 71 degrees north latitude and 337 degrees west latitude.

It was taken on Cassini's 59th flyby of Titan on July 8, 2009, at a distance of about 200,000 kilometers (120,000 miles). The image resolution was about 100 kilometers (60 miles) per pixel. Image processing was done at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin and the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/DLR
 
 
Reflection of Sunlight off Titan Lake
Of the countless equinoxes Saturn has seen since the birth of the solar system, this one, captured here in a mosaic of light and dark, is the first witnessed up close by an emissary from Earth … none other than our faithful robotic explorer, Cassini.

Seen from our planet, the view of Saturn's rings during equinox is extremely foreshortened and limited. But in orbit around Saturn, Cassini had no such problems. From 20 degrees above the ring plane, Cassini's wide angle camera shot 75 exposures in succession for this mosaic showing Saturn, its rings, and a few of its moons a day and a half after exact Saturn equinox, when the sun's disk was exactly overhead at the planet's equator.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
 
 
The Rite of Spring
The shadow of Saturn's moon Mimas dips onto the planet's rings and straddles the Cassini Division in this natural color image taken as Saturn approaches its August 2009 equinox. The novel illumination geometry created as the Saturnian system approaches equinox allows moons orbiting in or near the plane of Saturn's equatorial rings to cast shadows onto the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 52 degrees below the ringplane. Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on April 8, 2009 at a distance of approximately 1.1 million kilometers (684,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 64 kilometers (40 miles) per pixel. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
 
 
Across Resplendent Rings
Complex and unique canyon systems appear to have been intricately carved into older terrain by the ample flow of liquid methane rivers on Saturn's moon Titan, as seen in this radar image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on May 25, 2009.

Credit: NASA/JPL
 
 
Southern Canyons of Titan
Rays of light from the sun have taken many different paths to compose this glorious image of Saturn and its rings.

This view looks toward the unilluminated (north) side of the rings and, at the top of the image, the night side of Saturn. Sunlight has been reflected off the illuminated side of the rings to light the planet's southern hemisphere, seen here as a bright band of yellow-orange. The northern hemisphere, in the top left corner of the image, is dimly lit by light diffusely scattered through the rings. The planet's shadow cuts across the rings, but light reflected off the southern hemisphere backlights parts of the C ring, making them visible in silhouette.

Bright points of light in the image are stars occulted by the rings.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 41 degrees above the ringplane. Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were acquired with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on March 20, 2009 at a distance of approximately 892,000 kilometers (554,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 50 kilometers (31 miles) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
 
 
Glorious View
Cassini's radar mapper has obtained stereo views of close to 2 percent of Titan's surface during 19 flybys over the last five years. The process of making topographic maps from images is just getting started, but the results already reveal some of the diversity of Titan's geologic features.

These topographic maps show the equatorial
 
 
Titan's "Sand Sea" Belet
This is a portion of a Cassini radar mapper image obtained by the Cassini spacecraft on its Dec. 21, 2008, flyby of Saturn's moon Titan.

The area shown covers the southern boundary of an equatorial band where longitudinal dunes (dunes that form along the wind direction) are pervasive. Here the dunes are apparently created by winds locally coming from the west and north-west, and generally blowing toward the east. The dunes are interspersed with radar-bright features that are inferred to rise above the surrounding terrain.

In the lower part of the image there are no dunes at all, and the texture is more typical of featureless plains observed in many other areas of Titan that lack dunes. In this transition zone, the sand-sized particles that make up the dunes might not be so plentiful. In this case, insufficient sand to replenish the dunes makes them gradually disappear.

The image is centered near 19.2° south and 257.4° west. It covers an area of 220 kilometers (137 miles) by 170 kilometers (106 miles). North is approximately toward the top of the image, the radar illumination is from the right, and the incidence angle is about 25°. The vertical stripe across the image at its center is an artifact in this preliminary version.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
 
 
At the Edge of Titan's Dunes
These mosaics of the south pole of Saturn's moon Titan, made from images taken almost one year apart, show changes in dark areas that may be lakes filled by seasonal rains of liquid hydrocarbons.

The images on the left (unlabeled at top and labeled at bottom) were acquired July 3, 2004. Those on the right were taken June 6, 2005. In the 2005 images, new dark areas are visible and have been circled in the labeled version. The very bright features are clouds in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Titan's clouds behave similarly to those on Earth, changing rapidly on timescales of hours and appearing in different places from day to day. During the year that elapsed between these two observations, clouds were frequently observed at Titan's south pole by observers on Earth and by Cassini's imaging science subsystem.

It is likely that rain from a large storm created the new dark areas that were observed in June 2005. Some features, such as Ontario Lacus, show differences in brightness between the two observations that are the result of differences in illumination between the two observations. These mosaics use images taken in infrared light at a wavelength of 938 nanometers. The images have been oriented with the south pole in the center (black cross) and the 0 degree meridian toward the top. Image resolutions are several kilometers (several miles) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
 
 
Changes in Titan's Lakes
During two close flybys of Saturn's moon Enceladus in 2008, the cameras on NASA's Cassini acquired several very high-resolution images of specific regions of the south polar terrain. These images have been used to construct this detailed mosaic of the moon's famous tiger stripe fractures.

A special spacecraft maneuver dubbed
 
 
Tiger Stripes...Magnified!
On Oct. 5, 2008, just after coming within 25 kilometers (15.6 miles) of the surface of Enceladus, NASA’s Cassini captured this stunning mosaic as the spacecraft sped away from this geologically active moon of Saturn.

Craters and cratered terrains are rare in this view of the southern region of the moon's Saturn-facing hemisphere. Instead, the surface is replete with fractures, folds, and ridges--all hallmarks of remarkable tectonic activity for a relatively small world. In this enhanced-color view, regions that appear blue-green are thought to be coated with larger grains than those that appear white or gray. Portions of the tiger stripe fractures, or sulci, are visible along the terminator at lower right, surrounded by a circumpolar belt of mountains. The icy moon's famed jets emanate from at least eight distinct source regions, which lie on or near the tiger stripes. However, in this view, the most prominent feature is Labtayt Sulci, the approximately one-kilometer (0.6 miles) deep northward-trending chasm located just above the center of the mosaic.

Near the top, the conspicuous ridges are Ebony and Cufa Dorsae. This false-color mosaic was created from 28 images obtained at seven footprints, or pointing positions, by Cassini's narrow-angle camera. At each footprint, four images using filters sensitive to ultraviolet, visible and infrared light (spanning wavelengths from 338 to 930 nanometers) were combined to create the individual frames. The mosaic is an orthographic projection centered at 64.49 degrees south latitude, 283.87 west longitude, and it has an image scale of 196 kilometers (122.5 miles) per pixel. The original images ranged in resolution from 180 meters (594 feet) to 288 meters (950 feet) per pixel and were acquired at distances ranging from 30,000 to 48,000 kilometers (18,750 to 30,000 miles) as the spacecraft receded from Enceladus. The view was acquired at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 73 degrees.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
 
 
A Tectonic Feast
The Cassini spacecraft acquired this view of Enceladus just after the spacecraft passed within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of the surface on Oct. 9, 2008. Remarkably, only a handful of craters are visible in this view, indicating the relatively young age of this surface.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 9, 2008 at a distance of approximately 38,000 kilometers (24,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 73 degrees. Image scale is 228 meters (746 feet) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
 
 
Over the Limb
Like hunters sighting a clay duck flying fast in the sky, this mosaic of Cassini images was made from 'skeet shoot' narrow-angle images 1, 2, 3, and 4, all captured during the Oct. 31, 2008, flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

The resolution of this mosaic is 12.3 meters (41 feet) per pixel

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
 
 
Enceladus Rev 91 Flyby - Skeet Shoot 1-4 Mosaic
This Cassini image was the ninth 'skeet shoot' narrow-angle image captured during the Oct. 31, 2008 flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
 
 
Enceladus Rev 91 Flyby - Skeet Shoot #9
This Cassini image was the eight 'skeet shoot' narrow-angle image captured during the October 31, 2008, flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
 
 
Enceladus Rev 91 Flyby - Skeet Shoot #8
This Cassini image was the first and highest resolution 'skeet shoot' narrow-angle image captured during the Oct. 31, 2008, flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 31, 2008, at a distance of approximately 1,691 kilometers (1,056 miles) from Enceladus and at a sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 78 degrees. Image scale is 9 meters per pixel (29 feet) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
 
 
Enceladus Rev 91 Flyby - Skeet Shoot #1
This Cassini image was the fourth 'skeet shoot' narrow-angle image captured during the Oct. 31, 2008, flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute .
 
 
Enceladus Rev 91 Flyby - Skeet Shoot #4
This image was taken during Cassini's extremely close encounter with Enceladus on Oct. 9, 2008.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 9, 2008, a distance of approximately 47,000 kilometers (29,000 miles) from Enceladus. Image scale is 279 meters (916 feet) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
 
 
Enceladus Oct. 9, 2008 Flyby
This image was taken during Cassini's extremely close encounter with Enceladus on Oct. 9, 2008.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 9, 2008, a distance of approximately 45,000 kilometers (28,000 miles) from Enceladus. Image scale is 541 meters (1,774 feet) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
 
 
Enceladus Oct. 9, 2008 Flyby
This image was taken during Cassini's extremely close encounter with Enceladus on Oct. 9, 2008.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 9, 2008, a distance of approximately 42,000 kilometers (26,000 miles) from Enceladus. Image scale is 503 meters (1,650 feet) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
 
 
Enceladus Oct. 9, 2008 Flyby
This image was taken during Cassini's extremely close encounter with Enceladus on Oct. 9, 2008.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 9, 2008, a distance of approximately 26,000 kilometers (16,000 miles) from Enceladus. Image scale is 312 meters (1,024 feet) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
 
 
Enceladus Oct. 9, 2008 Flyby
This image was taken during Cassini's extremely close encounter with Enceladus on Oct. 9, 2008.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 9, 2008, a distance of approximately 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) from Enceladus. Image scale is 477 meters (1,566 feet) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
 
 
Enceladus Oct. 9, 2008 Flyby
This false-color mosaic combines Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) narrow-angle camera images obtained through ultraviolet, green, and near-infrared camera filters. Areas that are greenish in appearance are believed to represent deposits of coarser grained ice and solid boulders that are too small to be seen at this scale, but which are visible in the higher resolution views, while whitish deposits represent finer grained ice.

The mosaic shows that coarse-grained and solid ice are concentrated along valley floors and walls, as well as along the upraised flanks of the
 
 
Great Southern Land
This side-by-side view shows a newly discovered impact crater (at left) compared with a previously discovered crater (at right). The new crater was just discovered by the Cassini spacecraft's radar instrument during its most recent Titan flyby on May 12, 2008. This makes the fourth feature definitely identified as an impact crater so far on Titan -- fewer than 100 features are regarded as possible impacts. Compared with Saturn's other moons, which have many thousands of craters, Titan's surface is very sparsely cratered. This is in part due to Titan's dense atmosphere, which burns up the smaller impacting bodies before they can hit the surface. Geological processes, such as wind-driven motion of sand and icy volcanism, may also wipe out craters.

Credit: NASA/JPL.
 
 
Impact Craters on Titan
A set of three parallel ridges was seen by the Cassini spacecraft's radar instrument during the latest Titan flyby on May 12, 2008. This combination is unlikely to be a coincidence -- the best explanation for these features is that they are tilted or separated blocks of broken or faulted crust, now exposed as high ridges. Their regular spacing is typical of regions that have been compressed or extended over large areas; as an example, the western United States Basin and Range Province was formed by extension. Such interactions are called tectonics, although they do not happen in the same way as plate tectonics, which is a process unique to Earth.

Credit: NASA/JPL.
 
 
Tectonics on Titan
The plumes of water and other ice vapors jetting from the surface of Enceladus are one of the most exciting astronomical discoveries of the 21st century. These plumes originate from long linear fractures near the south pole of Enceladus.

New topographic maps give us a fresh unprecedented look at this geologically young and active region. This perspective view shows several of these
 
 
Tiger Stripes on Enceladus -- Fracture Zones and Plumes Sources
The topography of planetary surfaces tells us much about the geologic history and forces involved, and volcanically active Enceladus is no exception. New topographic maps give us a fresh unprecedented look at this tortured moon. This perspective view shows the oldest most heavily cratered terrains on the surface.

Long ridges and grooves and numerous younger narrow parallel fractures cut across many of these craters, showing that even this ancient terrain has not escaped the extensive tectonic deformation that has wracked this small icy moon. The larger craters in the foreground are typically 2 kilometers across and a few hundred meters deep.

This perspective view was constructed from digital elevation models produced by Dr. Paul Schenk at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, TX, based on stereo and shape-from-shading analysis of Cassini images acquired in March 2005. Vertical relief has been exaggerated by a factor of 10 to aid interpretation.

Credit: NASA/JPL/LPI/USRA.
 
 
Ancient Cratered Terrains on Enceladus -- A Complex Deformation History
During its July 2005 flyby of Enceladus, Cassini acquired one very high-resolution image of the geologically young and active south polar region. This view was acquired at a resolution of approximately 5 meters and is our highest resolution view of Enceladus.

Using a shape-from-shading technique developed at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston TX, Dr. Paul Schenk has produced the first topographic map of this region. This view shows the original high-resolution image together with a simultaneously acquired lower-resolution wide-angle camera context image as background. The image mosaic has been rendered as a perspective view using the topographic map to show the relief as if we are hovering a few kilometers above the rugged terrain, preparing for a landing. Vertical relief has been exaggerated by a factor of 10 to aid interpretation.

Credit: NASA/JPL/LPI/USRA.
 
 
South Polar Terrains of Enceladus -- Highest Resolution View
This three-image mosaic is the highest resolution view yet obtained of Enceladus' north polar region. The view looks southward over cratered plains from high above the north pole of Enceladus.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on March 12, 2008. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 32,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 115 degrees.

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
 
 
The North Polar Region of Enceladus
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