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August 31, 2005

Enceladus - News from Cassini

The Cassini-Huygens mission continues to bring surprising and fascinating images from Saturn, its rings, and moons. A gallery of small moon and large moon images shows the range of things out there. Most recently in the news, Enceladus has signs of very recent water flow - stripes of recently formed crystalline ice near the southern pole.

Cassini also found a trace atmosphere of water vapor - but strangely enough, not uniform across the planet, rather more water vapor concentrated in the south pole region again. Small areas in the region have temperatures up to 30 degrees (Kelvin) higher than at the equator. Cassini also found traces of carbon-based organic molecules in the atmosphere.

How could such a small moon (500 km across) manage an internal heat source? Could it be warm enough to have liquid water below the ice? Are ice particles sprayed out from Enceladus the source of ice for Saturn's outer rings? Fascinating questions from the Cassini mission.

Posted by apsmith at August 31, 2005 11:54 AM



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