Emily LakdawallaJan 15, 2016

Pretty pictures: Bittersweet goodies from Cassini at Titan, Enceladus, and Telesto

Tomorrow, Cassini will fly by Titan, picking up a gravity assist that will tilt its orbit slightly up and out of the ring plane. That will end what has been a wonderful year of frequent encounters with Saturnian moons. In fact, this is it for Cassini equatorial orbits; the mission has no further close-up, targeted encounters with any other moon except Titan, which it must continue to pass for orbital tweaking. Cassini will continue to acquire occasional, more distant photos, but there are only three mid-sized moon flybys with any planned imaging this year, one of Mimas in March and one each of Tethys and Enceladus in November.

So my feelings are mixed right now as I visit the Cassini raw images website and check out the latest photos, which feature many pretty pictures of Enceladus, Mimas, and smaller moons, notably Telesto:

Telesto, 14 January 2016
Telesto, 14 January 2016 This is a composite of four images of Telesto taken by Cassini on 14 January 2016. Telesto occupies the leading Lagrange point in Tethys' orbit.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Phil Stooke

I thought this image of Enceladus over Saturn was especially pretty and poignant:

Enceladus and Saturn
Enceladus and Saturn Cassini captured the images for this striking crescent Enceladus on 19 December 2015.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Elisabetta Bonora & Marco Faccin

And not to neglect Titan, here's a really nice recent global portrait:

New Year Titan
New Year Titan Cassini took the images for this color portrait of Titan on 31 December 2015.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Val Klavans

Val Klavans processed another image from the same observation, taken through a methane filter so as to make the surface visible. I think this is my favorite hemisphere of Titan. Enjoy using the "Before & After" feature to strip the atmosphere away from the surface:

Before & After: Titan above and below the atmosphere
Before & After: Titan above and below the atmosphere
Before & After: Titan above and below the atmosphere Cassini captured these images on 31 December 2015. Seen in visible light, Titan's atmosphere makes an opaque orange haze. Seen at an infrared wavelength at which methane is transparent, fuzzy surface features come into view. The "H" on Titan is made by two dark, dune-filled regions named Fensal and Aztlan.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Val Klavans

I made a map so you can see what all these geographic features are named:

Titan geography around Fensal-Aztlan
Titan geography around Fensal-Aztlan Image: NASA / JPL / SSI / Emily Lakdawalla

All too soon, all of Cassini's images of moons will be in the Planetary Data System, and I'll start making summary collages of Cassini's moon imaging. That's going to be fun, but also sad. I'm not ready for this mission to be over!

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