Saturn Moon Enceladus Shows Off Its Moves for Cassini (Video)

Cassini View of Saturn Moon Enceladus
Saturn's ocean-harboring moon Enceladus, as seen by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Aug. 1, 2017. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Saturn's possibly habitable moon Enceladus seems to dance in a gorgeous new video captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini took the six images that make up the minimovie on Aug. 1, when it was about 112,000 miles (181,000 kilometers) from bright, icy Enceladus.

"The heavens often seem vast and unchanging as seen from Earth, but movement in the skies is the norm," Cassini imaging team members wrote in a video description Monday (Sept. 4). "The relative motions of both Cassini and Enceladus over a 15-minute period create the movement seen in this movie sequence."

The 313-mile-wide (504 km) Enceladus is one of the most intriguing moons in the solar system. In 2005, Cassini spotted geysers of water vapor and other material blasting into space from "tiger stripe" fractures in Enceladus' south polar region. Mission team members later determined that this water is coming from an ocean beneath the moon's icy shell — and that this ocean may be capable of supporting microbial life.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured these views of Saturn's moon Enceladus on Aug. 1, 2017, from a distance of about 112,000 miles (181,000 kilometers). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini has made a number of other exciting discoveries since arriving in orbit around Saturn on June 30, 2004. For example, the probe spotted seas of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan, the ringed planet's largest moon. Before this find, Earth had been the only cosmic object known to harbor stable bodies of liquid on its surface.

But Cassini's work is nearly done. On Sept. 15, the probe — which is running out of fuel — will dive intentionally into Saturn, burning up like a meteor in the planet's thick atmosphere.

This suicide maneuver is designed to ensure that Cassini never contaminates Enceladus or Titan with microbes from Earth, NASA officials have said.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.