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Saturn's icy moon Enceladus shows off for NASA (pictures)

The Cassini spacecraft dives in close to Saturn's fascinating cold and cratered moon Enceladus.

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Amanda Kooser

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1 of 9 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus' icy north pole

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is getting up close and personal with Saturn's icy moon Enceladus in a series of flybys that started on Wednesday.

Enceladus' north pole is covered in craters, detailing a rough history for the satellite. This image was taken from just 4,000 miles (6,000 kilometers) away.

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2 of 9 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus hangs in space

NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught this look at Saturn's moon Enceladus back in 2013 from a distance of 106,000 miles (170,000 kilometers) away. A mountain ridge can be seen near the bottom. A close flyby this year has already resulted in clear, high-resolution images of the moon's north pole.

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3 of 9 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Close up on the north pole

NASA scientists wrote a new chapter in the history of Saturn moon Enceladus after the Cassini spacecraft dove in for a close look at the north pole. Craters and fractures show up clearly in this image. Researchers knew about the presence of fractures on the moon's southern end, but are now able to confirm their presence on the north side of the satellite.

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4 of 9 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Snowman on a moon

Three craters stacked in a line look like a snowman on the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. NASA's Cassini mission took the image from a distance of 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers) on its way to an even closer flyby of the moon's north-pole region.

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5 of 9 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini's raw look at Enceladus

This raw image of Saturn's moon Enceladus from NASA's Cassini spacecraft has not yet been processed to eke out more detail. Taken on Thursday after a close flyby, the photo shows some surreal round patterns. NASA notes that this image has not yet been validated or calibrated to make sense of what's seen.

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6 of 9 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus above Saturn's rings

NASA's Cassini spacecraft took some approach shots on its way to buzzing Saturn's moon Enceladus on Wednesday. This dramatic raw image shows the icy moon hovering above Saturn's rings.

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7 of 9 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Bright side of Enceladus

The bright side of this image of the moon Enceladus is lit up by a reflection of light off the surface of Saturn. Direct sunlight is responsible for the bright clip on the moon's left side. NASA's Cassini spacecraft is busy with a series of close flybys to get a better look at Enceladus.

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8 of 9 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus erupts

Scientists are fascinated by unusual eruptions taking place on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. Some researchers suspect the presence of a subsurface ocean. This set of images shows a simulation of the sprays.

"Researchers modeled eruptions on Saturn's moon Enceladus as uniform curtains along prominent fractures that stretch across the icy moon's south pole," NASA notes.

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9 of 9 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus as a tiny dot

This image from the Cassini spacecraft puts the size of Enceladus into perspective. Saturn is the main focus of the photo, but the moon is visible as a small dot in the lower left corner. Enceladus is just 313 miles (504 kilometers) across, compared with Saturn at nearly 75,000 miles (about 120,000 kilometers) in diameter.

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