Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cassini Captures Ocean-Like Spray at Saturn Moon

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has discovered the best evidence yet for a large-scale saltwater reservoir beneath the icy crust of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The data came from the spacecraft's direct analysis of salt-rich ice grains close to the jets ejected from the moon.

Data from Cassini's cosmic dust analyzer show the grains expelled from fissures, known as tiger stripes, are relatively small and predominantly low in salt far away from the moon. But closer to the moon's surface, Cassini found that relatively large grains rich with sodium and potassium dominate the plumes. The salt-rich particles have an 'ocean-like' composition and indicate that most, if not all, of the expelled ice and water vapor comes from the evaporation of liquid salt water. The findings appear in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Cassini Captures Ocean-Like Spray at Saturn Moon: