Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Saturn’s moon is source of solar system’s largest planetary ring

13.03.2006


Saturn’s moon Enceladus is the source of Saturn’s E-ring, confirms research published today.



Writing in the journal Science, scientists show how a plume of icy water vapour bursting out of the South Pole of Enceladus replenishes the water particles that make up the E-ring and creates a dynamic water-based atmosphere around the small moon. The E-ring is Saturn’s outermost ring and is composed of microscopic particles. It is very diffuse and stretches between the orbit of two of Saturn’s moons, Mimas and Titan.

Scientists discovered the dynamic atmosphere during three separate fly-bys of Enceladus by the Cassini spacecraft in February, March and July 2005. Cassini Huygens is a joint NASA/ESA mission to study the Saturnian system.


The team working on results from the magnetometer instrument were surprised to discover what they believed was an atmosphere on their first fly-by, 1176km from the moon’s surface. After a second flyby at 500km confirmed their observations, they persuaded the Cassini Project to take the next flyby much closer to Enceladus in order to investigate further.

On this flyby, at 175km, measurements from all the different instruments on the spacecraft confirmed the presence of an atmosphere. Later remote sensing observations of the moon revealed a plume of water vapour coming from the moon’s South Pole.

The atmosphere was also seen to change between the flybys, with a particularly extended atmosphere observed during the first one and a more concentrated atmosphere seen during subsequent flybys. The team believe that changing levels of activity by the plume at the South Pole were causing these changes in the atmosphere.

Professor Michele Dougherty, from Imperial College London’s Department of Space and Atmospheric Physics, Principal Investigator on Cassini’s magnetometer instrument and lead author of one of the papers, said: “When we observed signatures of an atmosphere on the first distant flyby we were very surprised because it was so unexpected to observe such signatures so far away from the moon.

“It was extremely exciting to have all the other instruments confirm our initial discovery, particularly when it was found that the atmosphere was changing from flyby to flyby and was closely linked with the subsequent plume observations at the South Pole. In addition this discovery clearly shows the importance of having a multi-instrument spacecraft such as Cassini since it enables us to combine a whole range of different data sets thereby allowing us to gain a much better overall understanding of complex physical systems.

Measurements of the temperature of Enceladus showed that, surprisingly, there is a concentration of heat around the South Pole, with the hottest point located over one of the fractures in the planet’s surface. The scientists believe that this heat signature shows internal processes within Enceladus causing the icy plume, by heating the moon’s ice.

Julia Maddock | alfa
Further information:
http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Nw/enceladus_plume.asp

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified

05.12.2016 | Information Technology

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>