Cassini records geysers on Saturn moon

by mdr on Mar. 29th, 2012

Geysers in space: plumes of water and other organic compounds are seen spraying from the surface of Saturn's small moon Enceladus.
Geysers in space: plumes of water and other organic compounds are seen spraying from the surface of Saturn's small moon Enceladus.Courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
The Cassini spacecraft made a recent approach to Saturn's moon Enceladus a couple days ago and captured some remarkable images of the icy plumes of water and organic compounds spraying into space from the moon's south pole. Kind of like a trip to Yellowstone without the crowds. The spacecraft also passed by two other moons, Janus and Dione.

Some unusual features of Enceladus are the tiger stripes that scour the moon's surface near its southern polar region. These markings appear to be the result of tectonic forces at work beneath the moon's ice-water shell. The geysers were first observed back in 2005. During Cassini's recent flybys the spacecraft took a taste of the jet sprays, analyzing their composition with special instrumentation.

"Aside from water and organic material, there is salt in the icy particles. The salinity is the same as that of Earth's oceans.“ - Dr Carolyn Porco, head of Cassini imaging team.

The orbit of Enceladus is distorted by Saturn's strong gravitation. This exerts tremendous pull on the moon creating heat and the subsequent generation of geologic activity that expresses itself on the surface with the tiger stripes and the geysers that emanate from them. The amount of water vapor leads scientists to think that an ocean exists just beneath Enceladus's icy surface.

Enceladus is Saturn's sixth largest moon and was discovered in 1789 by English astronomer William Herschel

LINKS
BBC story
NASA's Cassini site

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