CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Brilliant Ice Dust
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Brilliant Ice Dust
PIA 08337

Avg Rating: 9.42/10

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  Lit by reflected light from Saturn, Enceladus appears to hover above the gleaming rings, its well-defined ice particle jets spraying a continuous hail of tiny ice grains. The fine particles coat the moon in a mantle as white as fresh snow and populate the torus, or doughnut-shaped E ring in which Enceladus resides.

Beyond Enceladus (504 kilometers, 313 miles across), the fine particles in Saturn's other rings also glow brilliantly in scattered light in this viewing geometry. Running horizontally across the center of the image, between Enceladus and the dazzlingly bright F ring, are two faint rings ... kin of the E ring. These are the G ring (top) and the recently discovered ring designated R/2006 S1 (bottom), which is also unofficially known as the Janus/Epimetheus ring.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on March 22, 2006 at a distance of approximately 1.3 million kilometers (810,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 160 degrees. Image scale is 8 kilometers (5 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 Institute
Released: December 29, 2006 (PIA 08337)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
gandalf (Mar 7, 2007 at 11:48 AM):
Why does Enceladus have icy eruptions at it's poles ? Is it similar to the volcanic eruptions that we saw on Jupiter's moon Io, caused by tidal heating ?
Tommy (Feb 15, 2007 at 10:38 AM):
For some reason, I had missed this image and seeing it now, for the first time, is breathtaking. Just as Jason said before, when someone asks why I am into something that's so well beyond my reach, I show them images like this one (now first on my list), and wait for them to ask to show them more :)
carolyn (CICLOPS) (Feb 12, 2007 at 9:16 PM):
You are welcome, Dusty. And thank you for visiting our site and exploring Saturn with us. It is our pleasure.
Dusty (Feb 12, 2007 at 2:00 PM):
My what an amazing image. Sometimes its fun to imagine that when we die and move on to another place, that we could fly through the universe and witness such things. That would be a grand indeed. These images are pure majesty and its awe-inspiring to view them. It is also pretty amazing to be able to comment on them here. Thank you Carolyn and everyone else for doing this!
vista (Feb 12, 2007 at 4:29 AM):
Re. Brillian Ice Dust:

I agree this is a wounderfull image, I am very excited with Enceladus, and think that like Jupiter moon Europa there should in the future be a mission of exploration to Enceladus.

vista. (12/2/07 11.26 a.m)
Jason R. Rennie (Dec 31, 2006 at 5:31 PM):
I love pictures which show the rings with such an intense glow! To throw in a glimpse of icy Enceladus spewing its frozen breath is beyond words. Whenever one of my less scientifically inclinded aquaintences asks me why I am such a "space geek" I almost always explain the discovery of these jets from beginning to the present. This story never fails to excite nor does this picture!

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