Evidence is mounting that the atmosphere of Enceladus, first detected by the Cassini Magnetometer instrument, is the result of venting from ground fractures close to the moon’s south pole. New findings from the close flyby of Enceladus by Cassini this past July add to the emerging picture of a small icy body, unusual in its past and present level of activity, and very different from all other icy Saturnian moons.
Within a minute of closest approach to Enceladus on July 14th, 2005, two instruments aboard the Cassini spacecraft detected material coming from the surface of the moon. The Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) measured a large peak in the abundance of water vapor at approximately 35 seconds before closest approach to Enceladus, as it flew over the south polar region at an altitude of 270 kilometers (168 miles).
The High Rate Detector (HRD) of the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) observed a peak in the number of fine, powder-sized icy particles coming from the surface approximately a minute before reaching closest approach at an altitude of 460 kilometers (286 miles).
Preston Dyches | EurekAlert!
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