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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

NASA's Cassini Images Reveal Spectacular Evidence of an Active Moon

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The recent images were part of a sequence planned to confirm the presence of the plumes and examine them in finer detail. Imaging team member Dr. Andrew Ingersoll from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena , said, "I think what we're seeing are ice particles in jets of water vapor that emanate from pressurized vents. To form the particles and carry them aloft, the vapormust have a certain density, and that implies surprisingly warm temperatures for a cold body like Enceladus."

Imaging scientists are comparing the new images to earlier Cassini data in hopes of arriving at a more detailed, three-dimensional picture of the plumes and understanding how activity has come about on such a small moon. They arenot sure about the precise cause of the moon's unexpected geologic vitality.

"In some ways, Enceladus resembles a huge comet," said Dr. Torrence Johnson , imaging team member from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena . "Only, in the case of Enceladus, the energy source for the geyser-like activity is believed to be due to internal heating by perhaps radioactivity and tides rather than the sunlight which causes cometary jets. "The new data also give yet another indication of how Enceladus keeps supplying material to Saturn's gossamer E ring.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European and Italian Space Agencies. JPL, a division of the Caltech, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. 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. For the latest Cassini images on the Web, including a time sequence showing the plumes, visit:

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/cassini
http://ciclops.org
SOURCE NASA

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