Monday, July 26, 2021

ENCELEDUS- Saturn's Sixth Largest Moon!!!

Enceladus is the sixth-largest moon of Saturn. It is about 500 kilometers (310 mi) in diameter, about a tenth of that of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Enceladus is mostly covered by fresh, clean ice, making it one of the most reflective bodies of the Solar System. Consequently, its surface temperature at noon only reaches −198 °C (−324 °F), far colder than a light-absorbing body would be. Despite its small size, Enceladus has a wide range of surface features, ranging from old, heavily cratered regions to young, tectonically deformed terrains.

Enceladus was discovered on August 28, 1789, by William Herschel, but little was known about it until the two Voyager spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, passed nearby in 1980 and 1981. In 2005, the Cassini spacecraft started multiple close flybys of Enceladus, revealing its surface and environment in greater detail. In particular, Cassini discovered water-rich plumes venting from the south polar region. Cryovolcanoes near the south pole shoot geyser-like jets of water vapor, molecular hydrogen, other volatiles, and solid material, including sodium chloride crystals and ice particles, into space, totaling about 200 kg (440 lb) per second.

For decades, scientists didn’t know why Enceladus was the brightest world in the solar system, or how it related to Saturn’s E ring. Cassini found that both the fresh coating on its surface, and icy material in the E ring originate from vents connected to a global subsurface saltwater ocean that might host hydrothermal vents.

Before Cassini arrived at the Saturn system, planetary explorers only had hints that something interesting might be happening at Enceladus. Pictures from the Voyager spacecraft in the 1980s indicated that although this moon is small—only about 310 miles (500 kilometers) across—its icy surface is remarkably smooth in some places, and bright white all over. In fact, it’s the most reflective body in the solar system.

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