Enceladus, Cassini image (October 9, 2008)

Enceladus, Cassini image (October 9, 2008)

This photo of Enceladus was captured on October 9, 2008 while the moon was in eclipse, within Saturn’s shadow. Thus, a lot of stars can be seen.

With a diameter of about 310 miles (500 kilometers), Enceladus is the sixth-largest moon of Saturn. It was discovered on August 28, 1789, by William Herschel (15 November 1738 – 25 August 1822), the a British astronomer and composer of German and Czech-Jewish origin. Enceladus is mostly covered by fresh, clean ice, making it one of the most reflective bodies of the solar system. It is is named after the giant Enceladus of Greek mythology.

Enceladus is considered as one of the most scientifically compelling bodies in our solar system. It has an underground ocean beneath an icy crust. Hydrothermal vents spew water vapor and ice particles from that ocean and this plume of material includes organic compounds, volatile gases, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, salts and silica.

With its global ocean, unique chemistry and internal heat, Enceladus has become a promising lead in our search for extraterrestrial life.

This photo was taken at a distance of approximately 83,000 kilometers (52,000 miles) from Enceladus. Image source: NASA

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