Enceladus's jets governed by Saturn



Cassini reveals a startling connection between activity on the moon ant the Gas Giant.  



By Kieron Allen

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


Individual jets spurt ice particles, water vapor and trace organic compounds from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. 


The dramatic jets of water ice and organic matter that spew from Saturn’s moon Enceladus have long proven to be of great interest to both scientists and space enthusiasts alike. Now, the latest data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has revealed even more about this fascinating celestial phenomeno and it appears the intensity of the jets is governed by Enceladus’s proximity to Saturn.

New observations from the space probe show that a bright plume emanating from the moon’s south pole varies predictably.

"The jets of Enceladus apparently work like adjustable garden hose nozzles," said Cassini team scientist, Matt Hedman. "The nozzles are almost closed when Enceladus is closer to Saturn and are most open when the moon is farthest away.

“We think this has to do with how Saturn squeezes and releases the moon with its gravity." 

This new data adds to previous evidence that there could be a liquid water reservoir or ocean under the moon’s icy surface.

"The way the jets react so responsively to changing stresses on Enceladus suggests they have their origins in a large body of liquid water," said NASA’s Christophe Sotin. "Liquid water was key to the development of life on Earth, so these discoveries wet the appetite to know whether life exists everywhere water is present." 


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