Enceladus: Small but feisty | Science News



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Enceladus: Small but feisty

8:58am, August 23, 2005

Saturn's moon Enceladus, a tiny outpost in the frigid outer solar system, ought to be cold and geologically dead. But observations by the Cassini spacecraft, which flew within 175 kilometers of Enceladus on July 14 (SN: 7/30/05, p. 69: Available to subscribers at Cassini eyes youthful-looking Saturnian moon), reveal that it continues to undergo eruptions "right this minute," says Cassini researcher John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. NASA announced the newest findings on July 29.

A spectrometer on board Cassini has detected a large cloud of water vapor above the moon's south pole. Large, linear fractures at the pole, some of them dubbed tiger stripes, suggest that ice may continually vaporize from these cracks and replenish the cloud.

In another finding, Cassini detected large amounts of dust emanating from Enceladus. Micrometeoroids blast the particles off the moon, and the particles then form a haze of ice and du

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