Following a successful close flyby of Saturn’s icy, geologically active moon Enceladus, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting its latest images.
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“Cassini’s stunning images are providing us a quick look at Enceladus from this ultra-close flyby, but some of the most exciting science is yet to come,” said Linda Spilker, the mission’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Researchers will soon begin studying data from Cassini’s gas analyser and dust detector instruments, which directly sampled the moon’s plume of gas and dust-sized icy particles during the flyby, NASA said.
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These analyses, likely to take several weeks, should provide important insights about the composition of the global ocean beneath Enceladus’ surface and any hydrothermal activity occurring on the ocean floor.
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The potential for such activity in this small ocean world has made Enceladus a prime target for future exploration in search of habitable environments in the solar system beyond Earth, NASA said.