Bruce Murray Space Image Library

A Moon Through the Plumes

A Moon Through the Plumes
A Moon Through the Plumes On 18 May 2010, as Cassini approached for its 11th targeted flyby of Saturn's geyser moon Enceladus, it stared directly toward the little moon's active south polar geysers. Three of the geysers can be seen here, backlit by the Sun; the lumpy curve of Enceladus' furrowed surface is at the bottom of the photo. NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Thomas Romer / Gordan Ugarkovic

As Cassini traveled toward Enceladus' south pole, Saturn's rings and largest moon, Titan, came into view in the background. The rings are seen nearly edge-on and from their southern, unilluminated face, so they are mostly dark, except for the sparse, dusty F ring, which makes a bright streak across the image. (Like the ice crystals in Enceladus' geysers or dust motes in a sunbeam, the F ring particles are strongly forward scattering, which means they appear brightest when the Sun is nearly behind them.) The Sun is also nearly behind Titan, so we see it as a very thin crescent, but Titan's thick atmosphere and high-altitude haze layers also scatter light forward to Cassini's camera. This version is highly processed: a long exposure that reveals the plumes was combined with a shorter exposure of Titan and the rings. In addition, Titan has been colorized with a color image from a different date.

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