CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
Close Brush with Enceladus

Close Brush with Enceladus
PIA 08408

Avg Rating: 7.75/10

Full Size 1225x806:
PNG 534 KB
  This map of the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus, generated from images taken by NASA's Cassini and Voyager spacecraft, illustrates the imaging coverage planned for Cassini's very close flyby of the geologically active moon on March 12, 2008.

This flyby will be Cassini's closest approach to Enceladus so far, the fourth and final Enceladus flyby of the four-year prime mission, and the first of four close brushes with this moon that have been proposed for 2008. At closest approach, the spacecraft will be only about 50 kilometers (30 miles) above the surface of Enceladus, and will pass the moon at a speed of about 14 kilometers (9 miles) per second. Enceladus is 504 kilometers (313 miles) across.

During this flyby, as well as the flyby on Oct. 9, 2008, Cassini's in-situ instruments will make the most of the remarkably close encounters. The imaging cameras and the other optical remote sensing instruments will get a better look at the moon during the flybys that have been proposed for Aug. 11 and Oct. 31. Radar will acquire albedo measurements during the March and Oct. encounters.

Colored lines on the map enclose regions that will be covered at different imaging scales as Cassini encounters Enceladus. The highest-resolution images, about 200 meters (660 feet) per pixel, will be obtained over the cratered terrains of the northern hemisphere, prior to closest approach. Cassini will also acquire images soon after closest approach. However, the moon will be in eclipse during this time -- sitting within Saturn's shadow -- and surface features will likely not be visible. Additional images at resolutions above 700 meters per pixel (2,300 feet) will be acquired following the eclipse period.

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: March 6, 2008 (PIA 08408)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
spin0 (Mar 16, 2008 at 7:22 AM):
Hi all,

I made some colour compositions using Cassini's new raw images of Enceladus - eleven images in here:

spin0 (Mar 14, 2008 at 10:37 AM):
Yes, I'll add it to the "About This Video"-information.

I'm glad you liked the video; for me it gives bit of a feeling of riding with Cassini and makes me appreciate both the probe itself and your team's work with the images.

Here's a new link to the new version of the video:

I hope site's administrator could remove my previous post with the wrong non-working URL to the previous video.

Keep up the good work!
carolyn (CICLOPS) (Mar 14, 2008 at 9:46 AM):
Thanks, Spin0. And while you're at it, I'd appreciate it if you'd mention specifically that the images are the work of the Cassini Imaging Team. JPL never seems to mention this.
spin0 (Mar 14, 2008 at 9:33 AM):
I'm terribly terribly sorry! I'll change it right avay.

I copied the end credit text from "JPL Image Use Policy", which is linked from Cassini's raw image page. So I thought it was the official credit.

The policy is here:
And the link to "JPL image policy" is here:

My mistake, I'll fix the credit now.

carolyn (CICLOPS) (Mar 14, 2008 at 6:48 AM):
Spin0: Nice video, BUT... those images were taken by the Cassini Imaging Team. The official credit line should read: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Can you pls correct that in your You Tube video?
spin0 (Mar 14, 2008 at 0:21 AM):
Hi all,

I compiled a video of Enceladus flyby using Cassini's raw images. You can see it here:

carolyn (CICLOPS) (Mar 13, 2008 at 8:55 AM):
Hi Andrew,

It does indeed look so far like the flyby, at least as far as imaging is concerned, was a success. From previous more distant observations, we expect the northern hemisphere to be cratered and not to look like the south pole. And of course, we were already well aware of the softened nature of the craters.

We'll let you all know just exactly what the assessment of our new bounty is as soon as we figure it out ourselves!

Stay tuned.

Mercury_3488 (Mar 13, 2008 at 7:59 AM):
Hi every one,

Just to say, the images are coming in. They can be seen on the regular Cassini / Huygens NASA / JPL site in the Raw Images. I strongly suggest that you all go & take a look. They are absolutely incredible.

The ones after closest approach are showing a very reworked, resurfaced icy object, with a large canyon coming into view @ the Nine O' Clock position.

The crescent Encleladus pre closest approach, show a more heavily cratered, older surface, in fact Enceladus looks like two very different objects, dependent on wheter you are looking 'down' onto the Northern Hemisphere or 'up' at the Southern Hemisphere. Dione also, shows something similar, though not as dramatic. However the craters do look a little softened, not hard like Rhea, but softened like many on Dione or the Uranus moons Titania & Oberon.

Strange, but extremely fascinating.

Andrew Brown.
Red_dragon (Mar 12, 2008 at 8:50 AM):
A note: Cassini's closest approach will be far of the "tiger stripes". Cassini will pass through the plume at a height of roughly 600 kilometers, so no doubt Carolyn is right -I believed she would be at 50 kilometers of the tiger stripes-.
Also notice, by the way, that the height of the flyby has been revised; I remember to have seen last years the original idea was a height of around 25 kilometers.
By the way, it's really impressive the precision needed to guide a spacecraft that moves so fast at a distance so close to a target. Even though Sir Isaac Newton does most of the job, the Nav team deserves also A LOT of credit.

I guess raw images should be available tomorrow. No doubt they'll be worth to see.
carolyn (CICLOPS) (Mar 6, 2008 at 7:06 PM):
Folks: We have tried already to image the material around Rhea but didn't see anything yet. We will be trying again in the extended mission. We can't be sure what the material is until we've caught it in an image but it may be nothing more than a very diffuse dust halo. As for the source of the material...may merely be material sputtered off Rhea and into orbit around the moon, and nothing fancy like a broken up comet.
Mercury_3488 (Mar 6, 2008 at 5:53 PM):
What a week this turning out to be.

Ring around Rhea, close brush past Enceladus next Wednesday.

I too am wondering about Rhea's ring. Could it have formed from ejecta from the Tirawa basin??

Andrew Brown.
vista (Mar 6, 2008 at 3:46 PM):
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found evidence of material orbiting Rhea, Saturn's second largest moon. This is the first time rings may have been found around a moon.On March 12, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will make its closest flyby yet to Saturn's moon Enceladus. Cassini's goal: To scoop up samples of water-ice particles and gas spewing from Old-Faithful-like geysers.
I am very excited at the news of Rhea, and of the up coming flyby of Enceladus. If i may politely inquire two questions how good of images will we hope to receive? I am interested to know if its possible,to find an explanation for these rings that they are remnants from an asteroid or comet collision in Rhea's distant past. Such a collision may have pitched large quantities of gas and solid particles around Rhea

LOONYMAN (Mar 6, 2008 at 11:43 AM):
Does Cassini have sensitive enough instruments to detect any chemical imbalances in the water vapour that could be a sign of.....Shhhhhhh...the L word??

(and has Dr Porco thought any more about appearing on The Space Show?)
Mercury_3488 (Mar 6, 2008 at 11:11 AM):
What resolution will the sharpest images be, before they smear due to the speed of the encounter?

I remember very well, the Galileo spacecraft being sent through the Thor volcano plume on Io.

The same concerns then were expressed about partical size & it turned out the sulphur dioxide particles were microscopic & Galileo came through just fine.

I'm sure the same will happen with Cassini with Enceladus cryovolcanic particles.

I am really looking forward to this.

Andrew Brown.
carolyn (CICLOPS) (Mar 6, 2008 at 10:02 AM):
We are not expecting to encounter particles that are dangerous to Cassini. Such particles would have to be much larger than the typical sizes (a few microns) of the particles we find around Enceladus. Also, when we are at 50 km altitude, we are nowhere near the plume but near the equator. We think we'll be completely safe.
DEChengst (Mar 6, 2008 at 9:36 AM):
"Are you sure Cassini will not be hit by particles enough largue to damage her?."

I was wondering the same thing and already had a question about it in mind. Here it goes: Will the HGA be used as a shield during closest approach, just like was done with the ring plane crossing during SOI ?
Red_dragon (Mar 6, 2008 at 9:29 AM):
Are you sure Cassini will not be hit by particles enough largue to damage her?. With the largue relative speed Cassini will have relative to Enceladus, a hit may be problematic (50 kilometers...with that speed, that distance is transversed in just a bit more than three seconds).
Anyway, good luck with that flyby; without doubt, it's one of the most exciting Cassini highlights for this year as well as the next flybys -if everything goes well and they take place-.

(PS: for curious, my nick of "Red Dragon" has nothing to see with Hannibal Lecter's movie :)