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Enceladus Above Saturn's Rings.


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Saturn's icy Moon Enceladus.
Saturn's icy Moon Enceladus above the rings. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI.

Cassini recently took this image of Saturn's icy Moon Enceladus above the planet's sweeping rings. Although the rings are made largely of ice, they've become dirty because of contamination from meteoritic dust gathered over hundreds of millions of years. Enceladus, on the other hand, looks comparatively pristine. There must be some process that continues to resurface Enceladus, to keep it from turning the same dusty colour.

Saturn's icy Moon Enceladus hovers above Saturn's exquisite rings in this color view from Cassini. The rings, made of nearly pure water ice, have also become somewhat contaminated by meteoritic dust during their history, which may span several hundred million years. Enceladus shares the rings' nearly pure water ice composition, but appears to have eluded dust contamination through resurfacing processes that scientists are still trying to understand. Enceladus is 505 kilometers (314 miles) across.

Dust affects the rings' color, while differences in brightness are attributable to varying particle sizes and concentrations.

The images for this natural color view were taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 5, 2005, at a distance of approximately 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Saturn through red, green and blue spectral filters. The image scale is 13 kilometers (8 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 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. For additional images visit the Cassini imaging team homepage http://ciclops.org.




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