Cassini spies geysers, oceans, stars, milk and honey

Discovered only in the past five years, Enceladus' southern geysers are visible in this gorgeous image returned by Earth's robotic mariner, Cassini. One of a handful of solar bodies with confirmed organics, water ice has been detected following pulse-raising dives through the jets. Some scientists believe that a subsurface ocean fuels the vents on this small and geologically active moon, which also supplies material for Saturn's nearly invisible E ring - very faintly visible in this image - as the moon traces its way around the ringed planet. 

In another spectacular photo returned by the doughty craft in the past few days, the triple star Alpha Centauri system has been framed over the rings of Saturn. With optimistic scenarios and the very best technologies today, it would still take 17,000 years to reach our nearest neighbor. The "Bad Astronomer" Phil Plait has a better description of this image, pointing out, in addition to its poetic quality, that star watching in this fashion reveals a lot about the atmosphere of Saturn. Enjoy.

Wayne