Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lunar and Planetary Institute



Enceladus Weather:  Snow Flurries and Perfect Powder for Skiing

October 4, 2011

Global and high resolution mapping of Enceladus confirms that the weather forecast for Saturn’s unique icy moon is set for ongoing snow flurries. The superfine ice crystals that coat Enceladus’s surface would make perfect powder for skiing, according to Dr. Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, who presented the results at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2011 in Nantes, France, on Monday, October 3.

Mapping of global color patterns and measurements of surface layer thicknesses show that ice particles fall back onto the surface of Enceladus in a predictable pattern. Mapping of these deposits indicate that the plumes and their heat source are relatively long-lived features lasting millennia and probably tens of million years or more, and have blanketed areas of the surface in a thick layer of tiny ice particles.

“The discovery by instruments aboard the Cassini orbiter that there’s a currently active plume of icy dust and vapor from Enceladus has revolutionized planetary science,” says Schenk. “Earlier this year, we published work that showed material from Enceladus’s plumes coats the surfaces of Saturn’s icy moons. Now, we’ve uncovered two lines of evidence that point to thick deposits of plume material coating the surface of Enceladus itself.”

To read the full article, go to SpaceRef.

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Last updated October 4, 2011