On November 2nd, Cassini made it's closest approach to one of the most intriguing bodies in our Solar System, Saturn's moon Enceladus. The reason Enceladus is so amazing is that it is the one place in our Solar System where liquid water has been conclusively found. The greatest part is how it was found. Enceladus has massive geysers of water erupting from it's icy surface! Cassini discovered these plumes, and has now actually gotten close enough to pass though the outer reaches of one of these immense geysers, just over 100 miles away from the surface of the moon itself.
Cassini had approached Enceladus more closely before, but this passage took the spacecraft on its deepest plunge yet through the heart of the plume shooting out from the south polar region. Scientists are eagerly sifting through the results. - ( Space.com )
Cassini shot by Enceladus at 7.7 kilometers per second, or 17,200 miles per hour.
In this raw image, one can see one of the massive plumes, back-lit by the sun, as Cassini approaches Enceladus. (click the image to enlarge to full resolution)
Scientists have previously detected water vapor, sodium, and organic molecules in the jets, but this flyby will actually allow the Cassini spacecraft to take up-close readings of the chemical composition of these jets.
Pictured below is another shot of Enceladus, displaying what appear to be multiple geyser jets. (click on image to enlarge)
In 16 days there will be another fly-by of Enceladus by Cassini. -FUPPETS- cannot wait to see what bad-assitude Cassini will spring upon us next!