Feeds

Say what you like about Saturn: its moons really have atmosphere

Cassini gets interested in Enceladus

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The next step in data security

Cassini has found another Saturnian moon with an atmosphere: this time, it is Enceladus. The discovery was made during two recent flybys by the NASA space craft.

On the first fly-by, the team noticed a striking signature in Saturn's magnetic field. On the second pass, they noticed that the field was actually deflected by the moon. They also saw magnetic field oscillations, caused by ionised molecules interacting with the field lines, at a frequency consistent with ionised water vapour.

The icy moon Enceladus

Professor Michele Dougherty, of Imperial College, London and Principal Investigator for the Cassini magnetometer described the results as "a complete surprise".

"These new results from Cassini may be the first evidence of gases originating either from the surface or possibly from the interior of Enceladus," she added.

Enceladus is interesting for a number of reasons: it is a small icy world, thought to be the source of Saturn's E ring; it also is the most reflective object in the solar system, reflecting 90 per cent of the light that hits it.

But at just 500km in diameter, it is also too small to hold on to an atmosphere for very long, meaning it must be the source of its own atmosphere. This source needs to be continuous and very strong, the research team says, adding to speculation that the moon might be geologically active; generating its atmosphere either though volcanic activity, geysers or gases escaping from the surface or interior of the moon.

Scientists began to suspect that the moon is an active world after the Voyager fly-by in 1981, when it was determined that the moon was the source of the E ring. Ice volcanoes could also explain the moon's high reflectivity, as new eruptions would cover it continually in fresh ice. ®

Related stories

ESA flirts with NASA over Jupiter mission
Titan: rains of methane, mountains of ice
Countdown to launch for Deep Impact
Cassini probe snaps Mimas

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.