NASA Releases a Stunning Photo of Enceladus and Saturn's Rings
It seems like NASA is having a hard time letting go of Cassini. The little space probe has been making headlines a lot recently, even after its death, thanks in no small part to the fact that the machine's taken some of the most stunning photos of Saturn and its surrounding moons that anyone's ever seen.
The most recent picture, just released by NASA this week, shows the tiny and icy moon of Enceladus, shown against the stark background of Saturn's large rings. It's impressive to think that such a cosmic wonder now exists within our reach, and the quiet beauty of photographs like this remind us why space is such a fascinating place to explore.
Take a look at Enceladus below:
Beneath its icy exterior shell, Saturn's moon Enceladus hides a global ocean of liquid water. This 2011 view shows a plume of water ice particles & more spewing from the moon's south pole, backdropped by Saturn's rings glowing brightly: https://t.co/eK56NiccUW pic.twitter.com/ewJ3BokpGJ— NASA (@NASA) December 27, 2017
Enceladus is one of the more interesting bodies in our solar system, not least because scientists theorize that it might be able to support some form of life underneath its icy shell. Plenty of missions are ongoing at the moment which will hopefully send probes up to take a closer look at the moon, but these are all still in the early stages, and it'll be a while before humanity manages to blast anything off to Saturn to investigate further.
This is far from the first time that Cassini has given us a better look at this big icy rock - the probe was buzzing around it for years, on increasingly risky missions to get up close and personal with Enceladus and Saturn's other moons, so that we could see how they look on the surface. It's from Cassini that we learned how Enceladus is covered in thick ice, which is broken up in places by large geysers of water that burst out from the ground.
While this new photo isn't as close or detailed as other images that Cassini has provided us with other the years, it is particularly impressive. The tiny dot of light in the bottom right hand quadrant of the picture, NASA has noted, is a bright star which has managed to pierce through the light emitted both by the sun, and by Saturn itself.
While Cassini may no longer be with us, this picture is a reminder that there's still a lot to learn from the probe's findings over the years. With any luck, these will help us to gain a better understanding of Saturn and its moons, particularly whether or not Enceladus holds any secrets beneath its icy exterior that will prove useful for humanity as we begin our first, faltering steps out among the stars.
This is probably not the last we'll hear of Cassini, as NASA seems intent on sharing as many posthumous photos from the probe as possible in order to ease the sting of losing such a valuable metal ally, even if a small part of it escaped destruction.
Nobody is going to complain about this slow release of pictures, though. It's nice to take the right amount of time to enjoy every single picture that Cassini provided us with before its fiery death.