Feeds

Best skiing in space is on Saturnian ice moon Enceladus

Perfect powder, shame about the low gravity

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Anyone who'd like to ski in space should head for Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, according to boffins who've discovered that the superfine ice crystals coating the moon's surface would be perfect powder for skiing.

Artist rendering of the surface of Encedalus

"Bulky space suits and extremely low gravity aside (the surface gravity there is only roughly 1 per cent that of Earth's), the particles themselves are only a fraction of a millimetre in size, roughly a micron or two across, even finer than talcum powder. This would make for the finest powder a skier could hope for," said Dr Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas, who presented the results at the EPSC-DPS* Joint Meeting 2011 in France today.

The sweet slopes have helped proved the theory that ice particles blown in flurries on the moon fall in a predictable pattern and that the heat source driving the plumes of ice has lasted millennia.

Instruments aboard the Cassini orbiter took global and high resolution mapping images of Enceladus, showing how and where this fallout of fine ice particles lands on the surface. The plumes aren't blowing around a whole pile of snowy stuff, in fact getting 100m deep requires a few tens of millions of years or so. This tells the boffins that the heat source driving the flurries is similarly long-lived; if it wasn't, the E-ring around Saturn formed by ejected particles from the plumes would dissipate in tens of thousands of years.

Apart from discovering its potential as a ski resort, the patterns of fallen snow on the moon will also help scientists understand the internal heating mechanism driving the plumes, and the insulating properties of the moon's surface. They'll get more evidence to help their study of the phenomenon in 2012 and 2015, when Cassini passes Enceladus again. ®

Bootnote

*Take a deep breath: The European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.