The European Space Agency (ESA) has created a global infrared mosaic of the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The mosaic was created using a complete dataset from the Casini spacecraft that orbited Saturn and its moons between 2004 and 2017. Cassini’s mission ended after the spacecraft was intentionally sent into the atmosphere of the planet.
Despite the mission ending three years ago, discoveries are still being made from the data the spacecraft collected. Cassini flew by Enceladus 147 times with 23 close encounters. The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer on the spacecraft collected the data used to reveal information on the temperature and composition of the surface of the moon.
Data was also gathered on the sizes and crystallinity of ice grains. The global spectral mosaic uses the complete Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer data set. The full-color images were created by combining three IR channels of the spectral-imager represented by red, green, and blue colors. Those images were overlapped using the Imaging Science Subsystem on the spacecraft by another team.
The image shows five infrared views of Enceladus focused 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. The Mosaic also uses photometric correction to enable it to show new details on the surface of the moon.
Scientists note that the moon has a surface composed almost of pure water ice, making it highly reflective. Scientists had to use photometric correction to reveal details on the Moon’s surface and notes the correcting variations was necessary to show the differences in composition and physical state on the surface. Scientists note that in the future, they intend to apply the technique to other icy moons to compare them with Enceladus. Similar infrared mapping will be performed by the Juice and the Europa Clipper missions aiming to look at Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede.