The European Space Agency (ESA) has published an infrared mosaic image of the surface of Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon, measuring in at around 500 kilometers in diameter. The mosaic image was created using a data set from the Casini spacecraft which orbited both Saturn and its moons for a total of 13 years between 2004 and 2017 before it was intentionally crashed into Saturn’s atmosphere.
Despite Casini’s mission coming to an end over three years ago, researchers are still learning valuable information gathered from the spacecraft during its mission. During its time in space, Casini managed to fly by Enceladus a total of 147 times, with 23 of those being close encounters. During these flybys, the Casini spacecraft used a Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) to collect data on Enceladus, which revealed information about the composition of the moons surface along with its temperature.
According to a statement by the ESA, “The full-colour images were created by combining three IR channels of the VIMS spectro-imager, represented here by red, green, and blue colours, and overlapping these on a mosaic created using the Imaging Science Subsystem on Cassini by another team”.
Using the data they have gathered, scientist learned that the surface of Enceladus is composed of almost pure water ice, which makes the moon ‘highly reflective’. The image of the South Pole also reveals a clear boundary between terrains where the light red colour meets the blue region. The smooth red colour seen in the first image is likely due to recently exposed freshwater ice. This could be the surface signature of hotspots on the seafloor.
The image shows five infrared views of Enceladus centred on the leading side, the Saturn-facing side, and the trailing side in the top row, and the North and South Pole in the bottom row.
Take a look at the image below:
Image credit: ESA