NASA’s Cassini approaches Enceladus

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is on track to acquire the first detailed radar images of Saturn’s moon Enceladus during a flyby on Sunday, November 6.

The images will be the first high-res radar observations made of an icy moon – other than Titan – and are expected to provide new data about the surface of Enceladus.

The new data should allow researchers to compare the geological features of Enceladus with those of Titan.

Cassini is currently set to fly past Enceladus at a distance of about 300 miles (500 kilometers) at its closest point.

During the encounter, Cassini’s synthetic aperture radar will sweep across a long, narrow swath of the surface just north of the moon’s south pole. 

Other radar techniques will be used to map more of the surface of Enceladus at lower resolutions, in an effort to determine some of the surface’s physical properties as the spacecraft approaches and then speeds away from the icy body.

During the flyby, the mission’s visible-light cameras are also expected to snap images of Enceladus and its famous jets, while the composite infrared spectrometer makes new measurements of hot spots from which the jets emerge. 

Finally, Cassini’s ultraviolet imaging spectrograph will be deployed to conduct distant observations of Saturn’s moon Dione and its environment.