NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun beaming back to Earth its latest close-up snapshots of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
The probe took the images on Wednesday, when it flew about 30 miles above the moon’s south polar region, where icy water shoots out from a liquid ocean under the frozen surface. Cassini will continue transmitting data from the flyby in the next several days.
Because of this ocean and hydrothermal vents, scientists are looking at Enceladus as a good candidate for alien life.
“Cassini's stunning images are providing us a quick look at Enceladus from this ultra-close flyby, but some of the most exciting science is yet to come," Linda Spilker, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, said in a statement.
Researchers will study data from Cassini's gas analyzer and dust detector instruments, which directly sampled the moon's plume of gas and dust-sized icy particles during the flyby, JPL reports.
Cassini will make one final close Enceladus flyby on December 19, according to JPL.