Feeds

Best skiing in space is on Saturnian ice moon Enceladus

Perfect powder, shame about the low gravity

Business security measures using SSL

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
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
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
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
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'
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
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.