CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Ghostly Fingers of Enceladus
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Ghostly Fingers of Enceladus
PIA 08321

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  Wispy fingers of bright, icy particles reach several tens of thousands of kilometers outward from Enceladus into the E ring, while the moon's active south polar jets continue to fire away.

This astonishing, never-before-seen structure is made visible with the Sun almost directly behind the Saturn system from Cassini's vantage point. The Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft angle here is 175 degrees, a viewing geometry in which structures made of tiny particles brighten substantially.

These features are very likely the result of particles injected into Saturn orbit by the Enceladan geysers: those injected in the direction of the moon's orbital motion end up on larger, slower orbits and trail Enceladus in its orbit, and those injected into the opposite direction end up smaller, faster orbits and lead Enceladus. (Orbital motion is counter-clockwise.) In addition, the configuration of wisps may hint at an interaction between Saturn's magnetosphere and the torrent of particles issuing from Enceladus.

In addition to the wisps, another unexpected detail is the dark gore in the center of the ring, following the moon in its orbit, likely brought about by the sweeping action of Enceladus as it orbits in the center of the E ring.

The view looks down onto Enceladus (504 kilometers, 313 miles across) from about 15 degrees above the ringplane. Tethys (1,062 kilometers, 660 miles across) is visible to the left of Enceladus.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Sept. 15 at a distance of approximately 2.1 million kilometers (1.3 million miles) from Enceladus. Image scale is 128 kilometers (80 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit and the Cassini imaging team home page,

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science InstituteNASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: September 19, 2006 (PIA 08321)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
carolyn (CICLOPS) (Mar 29, 2007 at 9:36 AM):
Red_dragon is right that the vast majority of images are taken for scientific purposes. And there is a lot of demand for the downlink to the Earth so that there generally has to be good reason to do the same image in different filters. But, the Cassini Imaging Team has taken some images especially for artistic purposes. The first one of these was the Greatest Jupiter Portrait, at Jupiter flyby. And during Cassini's tour, we have taken others ... just to capture a beautiful sight. And we will do the same during the extended mission.
Red_dragon (Mar 29, 2007 at 8:57 AM):
Just one note:all images taken by space probes -not only Cassini,but also Voyager and Galileo- are taken in B&W.Images taken with different filters -usually,red,green,and blue- are combined to get the color images we know.
Remember Cassini is not at Saturn on a touristic trip:its mission is to gather scientific data of the Saturnian system. Color images are at least beautiful,but the science information is contained on those unprocessed raw images that we can see on Cassini's web site.
Also,obtaining a color image is not so simple as combining raw images (I know that for experience).Calculations must be made to avoid to see one moon of different color in those images where one sees a moon moving between images and the images itself must be processed. It's something hard,but it makes color images even more enjoyable
bluetetrahedron (Mar 27, 2007 at 12:24 PM):
Ooops! My mistake. The blueness I saw was just an optical illusion, cause uncertain. Also the method I used to check the chromicity of the image was unreliable. (A bit of Microsoft software did a conversion to true colour 'for me'.)

My apologies.
bluetetrahedron (Mar 27, 2007 at 11:06 AM):
The image is full colour! Look carefully and you will see that the ring is slightly blue. Unfortunately, if the object being photographed isn't very colourful then the photos won't be either. If you really want to see colourful images copy them into a photoeditor and enhance one of the colour chanels. For instance, I took this image and copied it into MicroSoft Photoeditor, used Image>Balance to shift the blue chanel to 80 brightness, 75 contrast and 0.68 Gamma and voila I had a very colourful if not all that realistic image!
jshirey (Mar 27, 2007 at 4:35 AM):
Why are SO many Cassini images black and white? I am so disappointed in the overall imaging compared to the Voyager and Galileo images

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