NASA's Cassini spacecraft is doing some serious stargazing today. It will orient itself to have an ideal view as a famous star passes behind the icy plume shooting out of Saturn's moon Enceladus.
Cassini has been cruising around Saturn's neighborhood for over a decade now. One of its biggest discoveries is the geyser of gas and icy particles shooting out of fissures in Enceladus' frozen shell. It's thought that the moon has some sort of thermal activity that heats up an internal ocean floor, keeping it in liquid form and perhaps warm enough to support life.
In October, Cassini took the plunge and cruised through the plume to try to collect data on what exactly is shooting out of the bottom of the moon. Today, it's doing a little follow-up research.
Cassini will observe as Enceladus passes in front of the star Epsilon Orionus to see how the star's light changes as it passes through the plume, NASA explained in a video published Wednesday.
NASA said Cassini will be watching from a distance of about 536,000 miles (923,000 kilometers) away from Enceladus, while the star is around 2,000 light years away.
The hope is that watching how the plume interacts with starlight will help scientists better understand its parts, particularly the gases in the plume. It could also provide new insights into exactly what forces are causing the eruption itself.
Cassini nearing the end of its long mission and is currently taking time out from flybys of another weird Saturnian moon, Titan. Cassini's long journey is set to end at some point in 2017 when it drifts off into Saturn's crushing atmosphere, likely imploding somewhere along the way.