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

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
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
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
NASA eyeballs SOLAR HEAT BOMBS, MINI-TORNADOES and NANOFLARES on Sun
Astro boffins probe fiery star's hidden depths
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.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.