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As Cassini approached the intriguing ice world of Enceladus for its extremely close flyby on July 14, 2005, the spacecraft obtained images in several wavelengths that were used to create this false-color composite view.
The surface of Enceladus shows a range of crater ages, including regions that have very few discernable craters at Cassini resolution. This observation indicates that there have been multiple episodes of activity on Enceladus spread over some fraction of its history. The resurfacing mechanism appears to be dominated by tectonic fracturing: as of yet, there is no clear evidence for release of liquid to the surface in either icy volcanic flows or geysers.
The south polar region (seen here at lower right) has a distinctive tectonic structure that sets it apart from the rest of the satellite. Its wavy outer boundary is marked by a series of pronounced tectonic "gashes" that form a hooplike boundary, near 60 degrees south latitude, that surrounds the south polar region. In this image, this fault zone forms the transition region from the presumably older, cratered terrain to the north from the younger, nearly crater-free region to the south. This fault zone is interrupted in several places by unique "Y-shaped" tectonic patterns that appear to engulf folded regions of ridges and troughs.
This false-color view is a composite of individual frames obtained using filters sensitive to ultraviolet (centered at 338 nanometers), green (centered at 568 nanometers) and infrared light (centered at 752 nanometers). The view has been enhanced to accentuate subtle color differences and fine-scale surface features.
The Sun illuminates Enceladus from the lower left, leaving part of the moon in shadow. This view shows the anti-Saturn hemisphere, centered at 42 degrees south latitude, 167 west longitude.
The images comprising this view were taken with the narrow angle camera from a distance of about 112,100 kilometers (69,700 miles) from Enceladus and from a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 46 degrees. The image scale is about 670 meters (2,200 feet) 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.